“No. No, no, no.”
“Felicity, we don’t really have much of a choice.”
“No, Digg. You can’t make me!”
Digg sighed. “I’m not making you do anything, Felicity. But this is our best shot for getting the goods on Tipton and you’re the only one who can do it.”
“Get Laurel!” she snapped. “She knows about Oliver being the Arrow, she can play along instead.”
He snorted. “Right. Oliver would throttle her before the day was out.”
Felicity gave him her most pleading look. “Digg, you know this is impossible. There’s just no way I can survive a week at a couples retreat, pretending to be Oliver’s wife.”
He gave her a sympathetic look, but the mission came first and they both knew it. For all her protests, Felicity was certain she’d be playing Mrs. Oliver Queen in less than two days’ time. She started mentally cataloguing her closet and groaned. “I’m going to need clothes. I can’t convincingly play a billionaire’s wife with my current wardrobe. Oliver better be willing to hand over his credit card for this,” she said grimly. “Speaking of which, where is our fearless leader? Why isn’t he here asking me, instead of sending you to do his dirty work?”
Digg smirked. “Because he’s a coward,” he said bluntly. “He was too afraid to face you with this particular request.”
“It’s not actually a request,” she grumbled. “But at least I know he still has a few brain cells in working order. He’s right to be afraid of me.”
“I am really not envious of him at the moment,” he chuckled. He pulled out his wallet and handed over a credit card bearing the name Oliver J. Queen. “Especially not after he sees the damage you do to this thing.”
“He owes me,” Felicity sniffed, taking the card and making a mental list of everything she would need. “Besides, if he wants me to play the part, I have to look the part. All those other high-society trophy wives are going to be decked out in designer swimwear and lots of jewelry, and I don’t think my Old Navy tankini is going to cut it.”
Her phone lit up and began playing its musical little tune, and Felicity made a face before picking it up. “I hate you. I really, really hate you.”
Oliver stifled a laugh. “I’m sorry, Felicity. It can’t be helped.”
“You could take Laurel,” she said desperately.
“That would never work and you know it,” he returned. “Laurel has a lot of great qualities, but being subtle and playing a role are not some of them. C’mon, Felicity, I know you can do this. You’re a great actress, you’ll be able to pull this off in your sleep.”
“Which we’re going to have to do, together,” she reminded him grimly. “Not that we’ll actually be sleeping together, in the sense of not really sleeping. But we’ll still have to share the same bed because I kind of think the Tipton people would be suspicious if we asked for a room with two queen beds instead of one bed for two Queens.” Her eyes narrowed, even though he couldn’t see her. “And don’t even think about telling me you’ll just sleep on the couch. I won’t let you make yourself uncomfortable every night for a whole week when we are both fully capable of acting like adults.”
Oliver fell silent and Felicity sighed before changing the subject. “Digg gave me your credit card so I can go get prepared for this charade. You know this is going to be expensive, right? There’s no way I can outfit myself in the manner befitting Oliver Queen’s wife without making a dent in your shiny plastic.”
“If you need another one, let me know,” he replied casually, tacitly giving his approval to spend whatever was required.
Felicity glanced at her watch. “I need to get going. I’m hiring a personal shopper to just go pick out everything I need, but whoever it is still needs to take my measurements. Then I need to go to the spa and get plucked and waxed and steamed and scrubbed so I can look like a Mexican hairless Chihuahua with no pores. Because every other female there is going to actually have had the benefit of being able to go in for spa treatments pretty much daily, and it’ll be weird if I show up looking like, well, me.”
“You look perfect,” Oliver reassured her, and she swallowed hard. “But I know how important that ritual is in these circles. Go, enjoy yourself, and don’t worry about the bill.”
“Easier said than done,” she muttered. “You just got your fortune back and I’m about to blow half of it on seaweed and mud wraps, designer clothes, and diamonds big enough to choke a horse. Oh! Jewelry! What do you want me to get?”
Oliver hesitated. “Don’t worry about that,” he said finally. “I have access to a whole safe’s worth. I’ll just pick out the pieces I think would suit you best.”
Felicity groaned. “I really don’t want to risk losing any of your mother’s jewelry,” she protested, but Oliver dismissed her concerns.
“It’s insured, and she had so much of it that most of it isn’t really special to me,” he reassured her. “If anything goes missing it’ll be replaced, so don’t worry about it.”
“Fine. I really have to go now,” she said, picking up her tablet to start a quick search on reputable personal shoppers. “I’ll see you later.”
She hung up the phone and looked up from her tablet to see Digg shaking his head and silently laughing at her. “What?” she asked defensively.
“Felicity, you are the only woman I’ve ever met who would be aggravated at the idea of being Oliver Queen’s wife, spending his billions on clothes and the spa, and inheriting his mother’s jewelry.”
Her eyes darkened. “Yeah, and none of it is real. I have to spend the next week pretending I’m married to someone who will always keep me at a distance. Sounds like a blast.”
Digg smiled as she selected a shopper and placed the call. Something told him their little undercover mission was going to start a fire that neither one would be able to control. He just hoped Felicity didn’t get burned.
The next 36 hours passed more quickly than Felicity was prepared for them to. The dozens of little tasks that she had to fit in between actually working for Oliver kept her brain racing and she was actually grateful that she had very little time to think about what she was about to do.
The new Gucci luggage set, packed to the brim with all of her new clothing, accessories, and other paraphernalia required to pull off the role of Mrs. Oliver Queen, had arrived that morning. Felicity wouldn’t even look at it; it just brought on more panicky fluttery sensations in her stomach. She had Digg pack it up in the limo as soon as he could spare a minute, grateful that he was in on the plan and she didn’t have to touch it herself. He’d raised an eyebrow when he realized she’d refused to even look inside it, but hadn’t said a word. Felicity was surprised he’d managed to hold his tongue, but she figured Oliver would get an earful at some point so she could be spared.
Oliver. Felicity sighed as she thought about her fake-husband-to-be. They’d barely spoken since the call where he’d given her carte blanche with his credit card and promised to provide jewelry. She had no idea how she was going to face him, let alone how she was going to spend the next week pretending to be his wife. The most painful thing was that she was pretty sure it wouldn’t be hard to slip into the skin of a woman she sometimes fantasized about becoming; the hard part would be knowing that no matter how he looked at her, how he touched her, what words he spoke, none of it would be real. She would be forced day in and day out to have her fingertips just barely touching the edge of heaven, knowing that at the end of the week it would all be ripped away from her and she would have to resume her old life, the one Before, as if she hadn’t spent a week in the arms of happiness. She would have to pretend that it had never happened.
Felicity was a good actress. She knew she could play the role of Oliver Queen’s wife without too much difficulty. She just didn’t know if she could play the role of Felicity Smoak post-Mrs. Oliver Queen, around Oliver himself, and still keep her sanity intact. She didn’t know if this role would be the one that tore them apart right after pushing them closer together than they’d ever been.
“Are you ready?”
Felicity gasped as Oliver’s quiet voice intruded on her thoughts. “Oliver!” she wheezed. “You scared the hell out of me!”
His face was apologetic, but he didn’t speak.
Rubbing a hand over her weary face, she nodded in response to his question. “My bags are all packed in the car, the thermostat’s been set, my mail delivery’s been put on hold, I even bought those glass plant-feeder things so my plants don’t die while I’m gone. My replacement at QC has been briefed, all your emails have been followed up on, meetings re-scheduled, and our Out of Office alerts have been set up. I think we’re as ready as we can be at this point.”
The gentle smile on his face escaped her notice. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” he said simply. “You run my life and I’d be falling apart if you didn’t.”
Felicity glared at him. “If I weren’t here you’d be dragging Laurel on this trip from hell,” she grumbled acrimoniously. “Right now that sounds pretty damn good to me.”
Oliver laughed softly. “Come on, Felicity, it won’t be that bad,” he teased. “We make a great team.”
If his words landed like arrows in her heart, she pretended not to notice. “Yep, we’re a fantastic team. As in partners. As in the non-romantic kind. That’s exactly what we are,” she muttered under her breath.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quietly enough to escape Oliver’s hearing. He went still as her barbed words dug their way into him. He wanted to reassure her but he couldn’t find the words. For all his adroitness with a glib word when needed, Felicity rendered him speechless at the most important, and most inopportune, times. Sighing, he reached for her hand. “It’s time to go. Digg is downstairs waiting for us.”
Her instinct was to pull away before his fingers could brush hers, but she relaxed and let him join their hands together. She was going to have to be physically connected to Oliver for a week, she couldn’t jump every time they made skin-to-skin contact.
They went down the elevator together, neither saying a word, both thinking about the week to come with more than a little trepidation in their hearts.
The car ride had been painfully silent, but as soon as they entered the airport complex Oliver pulled out of his introspective thoughts. He looked over at Felicity, who was staring solemnly out the window at the planes taking off around them. Oliver cleared his throat gently and she flicked a quick glance his way.
Reaching into his inner jacket pocket, Oliver pulled out a small blue velvet jewelry case. Felicity’s eyes widened and she lifted her eyes from the box to his eyes. “What is that?”
Oliver shifted uncomfortably. It was a necessary part of the ruse, but it felt so strange to be doing this here, without ceremony or formality. He wanted it to mean something, but that was a luxury that circumstances couldn’t afford. “If we’re going to pretend to be married, we need rings,” he said quietly, and Felicity’s eyes closed tightly. He could see her inhale a steadying breath before reopening her eyes, looking into his resolutely. He popped the lid open on the box and she gaped at the beautiful ring.
The corner of his mouth lifted in a small smile as he picked her hand up. His ring finger absently stroked her palm as he held her hand in his, and he used his other hand to slip the ring onto her finger. He felt a tightening in his gut at the intimacy of the gesture, even as he slid his own wedding band on.
Felicity couldn’t breathe as she stared at the ring, the weight of it pulling on her hand in a not-unpleasant way. As her brain started to clear, she realized it looked very familiar. Shock hit her when she recognized it. “You gave me your mother’s wedding ring?”
He looked a little sheepish. “I didn’t have time to go get a different one,” he explained apologetically. “I thought this one might mean something to you, though. I know you’re very fond of Walter and I hoped that knowing he picked this ring out, even if it was for my mother, might make it a little easier to bear.” He searched her eyes for signs of discomfort or irritation. “Are you okay with this, even temporarily? I know you didn’t like my mother.”
She sighed. “Moira and I didn’t get along, but it was because we had differing opinions on how best to protect you. I thought you deserved to know the truth, she thought you deserved to not be disillusioned. I didn’t appreciate the way she treated me, but in the end, everything she did was because she loved you and Thea and was looking out for your best interests. If I ever become a mom, I actually kind of want to be like her. Except, y’know, without the conspiracy and killing and kidnapping.”
Oliver didn’t respond to the snarky addendum. He was suddenly struck with a vision of a very pregnant Felicity, her face beaming as she tugged him along to look at cribs and strollers and clothes. His throat went dry and he forgot to breathe for a moment.
Felicity looked at him, the laughing smile dropping off her face at the faraway look on his. “Oliver?”
Oliver shook his head, clearing the image from his brain before refocusing on her. “Thank you for understanding,” he said sincerely. He paused before continuing, his voice a low rumble. “If we were married for real I would have gotten you a ring of your own, something unique and special.” Just like you.
The thought made her a little light-headed and she took a moment to formulate her words so she didn’t embarrass herself. “If we were married for real, this is exactly the ring I would want,” she murmured eventually. Felicity turned her hand slightly to each side, marveling at the way the light refracted through the large diamond and filled the car with a dazzling rainbow. “It’s perfect, Oliver.”
He tried to ignore the sensation that sliced through him at the look in her eyes. “Well then, I passed the first test as your fake husband,” he said lightly.
Before she could say anything, Digg’s voice floated back to them. “We’re about two minutes from the terminal, guys. You ready to assume the role of Mr. and Mrs. Queen?”
Felicity and Oliver stared at each other wordlessly, both of them thinking the same thing. Not even close.
Felicity breathed in deeply as she and Oliver exited the airport into the balmy evening air of Bridgetown, Barbados. Despite the circumstances, she was delighted to be on such a beautiful island and to get a little bit of a vacation. After all, she knew Oliver couldn’t possibly expect her to be “on” all the time, there would be moments here and there where she would be able to just enjoy herself.
For his part, Oliver felt at peace. It seemed so right, so natural, to be on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean with the beautiful blonde at his side. He wished it wasn’t a mission, that he had just spontaneously whisked her out of the country on a romantic getaway. Regretfully, he shook the thoughts from his head. He knew better than to torture himself with thoughts of what could never be.
Felicity withheld the sigh she wanted to let escape. This was going to be harder than she thought, with Oliver being so distant and unapproachable. “You realize you’re going to have to get over this aversion to being around me if we’re going to pull this off, right?” she asked, startling him out of his thoughts.
He looked at her in confusion. “Aversion to being around you?”
“You’ve made it clear you’re not exactly thrilled to be here,” Felicity pointed out quietly. “You’ve barely spoken to me since we left Starling, and you definitely haven’t looked at me more often than you absolutely had to.”
Oliver sighed. “I know how hard this is going to be,” he confessed. “I don’t want to make it any harder on us than it has to be.”
“I know avoidance is your factory setting, Oliver, but the more you avoid me the harder this is going to be,” she responded wryly. “Let’s just pretend we’re friends who can act like we’re head over heels in love and it’s no big deal, okay? We’ll get through this week and go back to our normal lives, not that our lives are ever actually normal, but definitely more normal than being on a gorgeous, romantic tropical island where we’re going to be treated like kings-or, well, Queens in this case-and do you ever get tired of that joke? You must. Anyway-.”
“Felicity.” She stopped talking and looked at him, grateful to see that half-smile playing around his lips. “Breathe. We’ll be fine.”
She did as instructed and took a deep breath while Oliver flagged down a ZR taxi. Their luggage was loaded into the vehicle and Oliver took Felicity’s hand, lacing his fingers through hers, before gently tugging her toward it. It was crowded, as Felicity had learned was common while doing her research on the island, so Oliver pulled her into his lap to conserve space. Her eyes flew toward him in shock, but the adoring look on his face caused her mind to go blank. It wasn’t until he nudged her, his smile growing a little wider, before she remembered that this was going to be the next week of her life and she’d better get used to it. Not that it will be all that hard, she mused ruefully. It’ll be getting used to living without it when we get back to Starling City that’s going to be the difficult part. She pushed the disconcerting thought from her mind and beamed back at him, looping her arms around his neck and snuggling closer to him. His hand fell to her hip, curling around it slightly and leaving the warmth of his skin to seep through her clothes until she swore it was branding her.
They were quiet on the drive to the resort, taking in the scenic beauty surrounding them as well as the chatter and laughter of the natives sharing the taxi. Felicity felt herself easing into the rhythm of their speech and being infected with their joyfulness, and when she flicked another glance at Oliver, the smile she gave him was genuine.
At long last they pulled up in front of the Tipton Resort. They untangled themselves from each other and paid their fare, and Felicity quickly scanned the resort grounds while Oliver directed the luggage attendant in removing their bags and taking them inside. He gave her a warm smile while holding his arm out for her, and she slid her hand through the crook of his elbow and rested it lightly on his forearm as he guided her inside.
She had to hold back a gasp at the opulence they encountered. She had never been somewhere so luxurious and, quite frankly, hedonistic. Her head spun at the idea of staying here for a week, and she selfishly hoped they accomplished their mission early enough that they could enjoy the remainder of their stay simply as a vacation. Her gaze cut over to Oliver and she rolled her eyes when she realized he wasn’t even fazed by the grandeur surrounding them. Instead, he led them to the front desk and gave the clerk a winsome smile.
“Oliver and Felicity Queen,” he said smoothly, and Felicity swore her heart lurched at the sound of her name paired with Oliver’s.
“Yes, Mr. Queen. I have you down for the couples retreat this week, you’ll be staying in room 317,” the clerk said cheerfully. She handed Oliver two room keys and a printout. “Here’s your itinerary for the week, with all the workshops and counseling sessions listed. There will also be two half-day excursions into Bridgetown for shopping, sight-seeing, and trips to the public beaches, if you’re so inclined. Of course we have our own private beach and two swimming pools complete with hot tubs, which you’re welcome to enjoy instead.”
Felicity was itching to get out on the beach; it had been too long since she’d felt sand between her toes and the warm surf splashing her legs. Oliver looked down at her in amusement and she realized her fingernails were digging into his arm in her excitement. Oliver collected their things and thanked the clerk, and she responded with a toothy smile. “Enjoy your stay, Mr. and Mrs. Queen.”
Mrs. Queen. Gulp. Felicity could feel Oliver tense and she was grateful to know he wasn’t as unaffected by this whole game as he appeared.
“What do you want to do first?” Oliver asked as they made their way to the third floor. He unlocked their room and they found their luggage waiting for them.
“I think we should get changed, freshen up a little bit, and go mingle,” she replied, eyeing her luggage and trying to determine which one would be most likely to hold what she was looking for. “We need to let people see us together and start to get a feel for the other couples. It’s likely these guys will be good at passing themselves off as a real married couple, or they wouldn’t have been chosen for this particular assignment. We’ll have to keep a really sharp eye out.”
“If they get past your internal lie detector, I’ll be shocked,” Oliver teased her. She raised an eyebrow at him.
“I’m good, but it seems to be your bullshit that I’m best at seeing through,” she retorted, and he whistled.
“Language, Felicty,” he tsked, and she threw one of the fluffy bed pillows at him. He laughed, the most genuine sound she’d heard from him in months, and disappeared into the bathroom with a change of clothes.
When he came back out, he was wearing khaki slacks and a light blue polo shirt, the buttons left undone and exposing the tanned skin of his throat and chest. The blue emphasized his eyes and they both looked and felt more piercing than ever. Felicity swallowed as she slid on her other espadrille. She was wearing a bright pink halter top and a light, breezy beach skirt in a tropical print of pinks and oranges. Her tousled blonde hair was pulled up loosely in a shell-pink clip; several tendrils had escaped and gently framed her face. She looked happy, relaxed, and made for the life of a trophy wife who had nothing better to do than take vacations and lie out on a beach.
Oliver placed his hand on her lower back as they walked down the hall, his thumb absent-mindedly rubbing against the strip of bare skin between her top and skirt. Felicity could feel the shivers building inside but held them back by sheer force of will. She had to get over these ridiculous reactions to Oliver’s touch or she’d blow their cover.
As they walked back down into the lobby, Felicity worked at being a little more aloof and less impressed by the resort. She was supposed to be used to this kind of thing. She took note of the faces they passed, knowing that the resort was closed off to traditional guests during the retreats. Everyone they encountered was here for the retreat, and that meant every person she saw could potentially be their target.
Felicity felt a tiny smidge of relief overshadowed by terror. The man greeting Oliver with a hearty clap to the back was Donovan Blackstock, one of QC’s newest investors. She’d spoken to and been in meetings with him on several occasions and knew him to be a good man. It would help to actually have a friendly face around, someone she knew besides Oliver. On the other hand, he knew her to be Oliver Queen’s EA, not his wife. They were going to have to sell the act in his presence back in Starling City long enough to be able to convincingly make their way through a quiet divorce. Their week-long ruse had just promised to get even longer.
“Donovan, good to see you,” Oliver said warmly. “I didn’t expect you to be interested in something like this,” he said lightly.
Donovan chuckled. “The missus insisted. Said it would be good for us since I’ve been so focused on the new acquisition lately, and she’s been wanting to get back to Barbados since we were here a few years ago. Lovely island.” He eyed Felicity with curiosity. “And what are you doing here, Miss Smoak?”
“Queen, actually.” She gave him her most disarming smile and he fell for it. Oliver would have been jealous if he wasn’t so proud. “We didn’t get to have a honeymoon, so we thought this might be a nice way to work one in.”
Donovan turned surprised eyes on Oliver. “How did you manage to keep this one under wraps?” he exclaimed. “I would have thought Oliver Queen’s wedding would have been the story of the century.”
“We didn’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Oliver said with a shrug. “We eloped right before the attack on Starling, and with everything in chaos and me trying to get Queen Consolidated back, we thought it was best that we not mention it.”
Felicity kept the smile on her face but inside she was cringing. The attack had been less than two months ago, which essentially told Blackstock that they were newlyweds. Oliver had no idea what he’d just set them up for.
“Well congratulations to both of you. Oliver, my friend, don’t ever let this beautiful lady get away. She is beyond remarkable,” Donovan said with a wink, and Felicity smiled prettily back at him. Oliver tensed, the smile on his face freezing into ice, and she gave him a warning look as Donovan turned away to figure out where his wife had gone to.
“Are you an idiot?” she hissed when the other man was sufficiently far away.
Oliver blinked. “I certainly can be,” he said cautiously. “What did I do this time?”
She groaned. “You just told Blackstock we’re newlyweds. Newlyweds are handsy. They kiss and hang all over each other, at least they would at a place like this. You’ve essentially just committed us to being as affectionate with each other as possible when we’re in public.”
Oliver’s face remained impassive, but inwardly he recognized that he’d just made their lives a hell of a lot more difficult.
They made the rounds for a little longer, introducing themselves to several other couples. Oliver and Felicity both assessed each person they came in contact with, taking mental notes so they could compare their thoughts later. After an hour, they made their excuses and went back upstairs.
“I thought Nadia and Peter were a little suspicious,” Felicity said immediately as they closed the door to their room. She sat down on the floor in front of her luggage and opened one of the suitcases, trying to find some pajamas.
Oliver smirked. “You just don’t like him because he was trying to put his hands on you when Nadia wasn’t looking.” Truth be told, Oliver had wanted to break those hands, so he couldn’t fault Felicity for loathing the man after their brief meeting. “That doesn’t make him suspicious, it makes him a dick.”
“Well then, who stood out to you?” she retorted, finishing her search of the suitcase and moving on to the next.
He considered her question. “There was something off about Melina and Anson,” he said after a moment. “They didn’t seem quite as at ease as everyone else did.”
“They might not be as into the social aspect of this whole experience,” Felicity pointed out, frowning at the contents of the suitcase. Still no pajamas. She pulled open the third case and began rooting around.
“True,” Oliver conceded. He watched in amusement as Felicity began pawing vigorously through the suitcase. “Felicity, what in the world are you looking for?”
“Pajamas,” Felicity muttered, the panic evident on her face as she pulled out fistfuls of silky, lacy lingerie. She looked up at Oliver in horror. “That damn shopper didn’t buy me any actual pajamas! She just bought me negligees!”
Oliver’s eyes flew to the suitcase and the red satin-and-lace teddy hanging from Felicity’s outstretched fingers. The collar of his shirt felt tight, even though it wasn’t buttoned. “There has to be something in there,” he said reasonably, trying to keep the anxiousness out of his voice.
She shoved the suitcase at him. “By all means, take a look and find them!”
Oliver felt awkward as he began digging around in the luggage, looking for the elusive pajamas. He didn’t find any, but he felt a measure of relief when he spotted what appeared to be a plain black, full-length gown. It wasn’t ideal, obviously, but it was much better than the skimpy, see-through nothings that Felicity was clutching against her chest. “Here,” he said, thrusting the gown at her. “It’ll do for tonight.”
She snatched it from him and headed to the bathroom to change. Oliver quickly shed his clothes and pulled on a pair of light, drawstring-style pajama pants. He forewent the shirt, figuring that Felicity had seen him bare-chested almost as many times as she’d seen him with a shirt on. He was turning down the coverlet when Felicity opened the door to the bathroom. Her voice filled the silence, tiny and full of trepidation.
“Um, Oliver? I don’t think this is a good idea.”
His eyes lifted and his heart stopped. The “plain black gown” was wrapped around her lithe form like a candy cane, the silky panels alternating with sheer black ones. He could see more skin than he was comfortable with, knowing that he would have to sleep next to her all night. Her breasts were covered, barely, but one of the sheer panels wrapped right over her stomach and he could see her navel, which was more erotic than he thought humanly possible. He swallowed hard and gestured to the bed.
“There’s not much we can do about it tonight,” he managed to say. He avoided looking back at her, thought God knew how badly he wanted to turn and just drink in the sight of her. “We’ll find something in the local shops when we have our first trip back into town.”
“Okay,” she said quietly, easing into the bed. He laid down next to her, his body tense. Only his finely-honed reflexes kept him from jumping out of his skin when her small hand came to rest gently on his arm. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly.
“It’s not your fault,” he reassured her. “Just go to sleep, we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”
He sensed her nodding in acknowledgement before she shifted, rolling onto her side. Her warm breath caressed his heated skin and he fought not to react. It wasn’t long before he heard her quiet, even breathing and he knew she was asleep.
For Oliver, however, sleep was a long time coming.
Felicity woke up with a musky scent in her nose and hard flesh underneath her cheek. She yawned as she became more alert, a little at a time, and realized that she was half-sprawled across Oliver’s chest. His arm was looped loosely around her back, his hand resting lightly on her hip, and the crown of her head was tucked underneath his chin. Surprisingly, he was still asleep. She tried to gently slide away from him but his arm tightened around her reflexively. Sighing, she snuggled back into him and resolved to enjoy herself until he woke up.
It only took a few more minutes, for which she was both disappointed and relieved. She could have lain there all morning, inhaling his scent and reveling in the feel of his arm around her, but she really had to go to the bathroom. When his bright blue eyes snapped open and registered what was causing the pressure on his chest, his arm relaxed and she scooted away from him.
In the bathroom, she took the opportunity to inhale a few deep breaths and give herself a stern glare in the mirror. “You have got to get yourself under control, Felicity Meghan Smoak,” she muttered. “None of this means anything. Every bit of his affection is simply selling a role. He’s acting, nothing else.” She splashed some water on her face and brushed her teeth, feeling reasonably refreshed, before going back to the bedroom.
Oliver was sitting on the edge of the bed, his elbows on his knees while he rubbed his hands over his face. He glanced up when she walked back in, instantly averting his eyes when he realized she was still wearing the black gown. Felicity flushed and she hurried to the closet, grabbing one of the plush white resort robes and belting it tightly around herself. “So what’s on the agenda for today?” she asked brightly, trying to dispel the awkwardness.
He studied the itinerary the desk clerk had given them the previous evening. “There’s a group session in about an hour and a half where we do the ‘getting to know you’ thing, introducing ourselves to each other and revealing our deepest darkest secrets to strangers,” he said wryly, and Felicity snorted. “Then there’s a trusting your partner workshop this afternoon. We should go to the group session, but I think we can skip the workshop. Trust isn’t exactly an issue with us.”
Felicity shook her head. “I think we should go,” she said. “It can help counteract the newlywed thing you spread last night. I can say something about how one of the reasons I wanted to come here is I’m already worried you’re cheating on me. You’ve done a damn good job of keeping up the spoiled playboy appearance the last couple years, so it won’t be a shock to anyone. That could explain why we’re not as publicly affectionate as people would expect us to be.”
Oliver balked. “I don’t want to be that person,” he argued. “Not even fictionally. I would never cheat on you, and I don’t want to pretend I would.”
Felicity inhaled sharply at his implication, but she did her best to ignore it. “Well, I didn’t want to come here,” she retorted. “I didn’t want to put us both through this farce, but I’m doing it because eliminating the influx of biochemical weapons in Starling City is a little bit more important than my own personal comfort. We each committed to doing what we have to do in order to find out who’s smuggling them in and stop them. So suck it up, Buttercup.”
If she didn’t know him so well, she wouldn’t have sensed him flinching at her harsh words. She knew she was being difficult and that he wouldn’t have asked her-well, he wouldn’t have had Diggle ask her, anyway-if it wasn’t extraordinarily important. She knew that. But damn it, her heart had been suffering one wound after another lately when it came to Oliver Queen, and she was worn out. She was struggling to keep herself together after each attack and she simply wasn’t sure she could do it anymore.
It was on the tip of her tongue to apologize for her unnecessarily unkind response, but she stubbornly bit it. She didn’t owe him an apology; in fact, he kind of owed her one. Instead, she glossed over her statement and forged ahead. “Have you given any thought to what we’re going to say in these sessions?” she asked. “We haven’t prepared any kind of story. Your springing the ‘we just got married less than two months ago’ thing on me with Donovan is proof enough of that.”
He shrugged. “I figured we’d play it by ear,” he said honestly. “You read me so well and you pick up whatever ball I throw and just run with it. Besides, I’ve gotten pretty good at being convincing on the fly.”
“A lesson I’ve learned all too well,” Felicity mumbled, and he froze, his face pained. Throwing up her arms in exasperation, she whirled away from him and gathered some clothing from one of her suitcases. “I’m going to shower and start getting ready, since this conversation is clearly not going anywhere positive.”
Oliver sat down heavily on the bed as she disappeared into the bathroom. He groaned at how badly they were both handling the entire situation, and he hoped their friendship would remain intact after the week was over. Felicity was obviously harboring some resentment over that night in the mansion, and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t tell her he’d spoken the God’s-honest truth, because their circumstances hadn’t changed. He put her in enough danger every day as it was, and he wasn’t about to make her bait for a madman bent on trying to hurt him. Not again.
Things were tensely silent as they both went through the routine of getting ready for the day. Felicity pulled her wet hair back in a French braid so that it would have that wavy, beachy look after it dried. She also hung up all their clothes while Oliver was in the shower, cringing at the amount of seductive lingerie in hers. She shoved it all into the back of one of the drawers, hoping she’d forget about it by the time they left.
After everything was put away she surveyed the contents of the closet, trying to decide what to wear to the group session. She wanted to appear put-together and confident, but not like she was trying to outdo all the other wives. She ended up selecting a sleeveless teal shift dress with a gauzy overlay and geometric cut-outs over her upper chest. It banded around her neck at the top, leaving her shoulders bare. She shimmied into it as she heard the bathroom door opening, hooking the closures at the neck just as Oliver stepped out. She quickly slid on a pair of strappy white leather sandals, the straps criss-crossing over the bridge of her foot and winding around her ankles. His eyes skimmed her from head to toe, the pleasure evident in his gaze. Felicity let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. Apparently she passed muster.
“Ready?” he asked, holding out a hand. Hesitantly, she nodded and slipped her hand into his.
The difference in his demeanor as they stepped into the lobby was enough to make her head spin. He’d gone from quiet and withdrawn to blinding smiles and hugging her tightly against him. He couldn’t take a breath without her feeling every inch of his body’s expansion. Felicity realized she resented how effortless it seemed to be for him to flip his feelings on and off like a switch.
“Oliver! Felicity!” It was Blackstock again, greeting them warmly while his wife, Ariel, had a bored look on her face.
“Are you looking forward to the soul-sharing?” Oliver joked as the two of them shook hands.
Blackstock rolled his eyes. “You know, I’m honestly not sure why I agreed to this,” he said conspirationally.
At that moment Oliver was thinking something similar, although his was more along the lines of, I’m really not sure why I signed us both up for this. Then a slim woman with a red chin-length bob stepped into the lobby and greeted them.
“Hello everyone, and welcome to the Tipton Resort’s couples retreat! My name is Traci Norris and I’m the retreat director. If you’ll follow me, please.”
Everyone fell in line as Traci led them into a larger room. There was a refreshment table along one wall and a circle of chairs set up in the middle. A young man, roughly Oliver’s age, stood in the center of the circle. He had light brown hair, green eyes, and a quick smile. Oliver noticed that it landed immediately on Felicity and broadened, and he clenched his fists to keep from going over and pounding it off the man’s face.
“Nearly all of the activities and workshops here at the retreat are optional and you may attend whichever ones you wish. The only required activities are the counseling sessions. You’ll be working with our trained counselors in both group and individual settings; today you’ll be with Raymond.”
The brunette stepped forward and welcomed them all as Traci slipped out of the room. Oliver tuned him and the psychobabble questions and responses out as he took another opportunity to study the couples in the room. He’d met them all last night and had formed preliminary opinions, but he wanted to get an idea of them in a non-social environment.
Besides himself and Felicity, there were five other couples; Donovan and Ariel, Peter and Nadia, Anson and Melina, Elliott and Genevieve, and Hunter and Elise. Elliott and Genevieve were very pleasant and friendly people with warm smiles. The conversation was amiable and superficial, nothing that sparked suspicion. He listened with one ear as Genevieve explained why she and Elliott were there.
“We decided when we got married that every five years we’d treat ourselves to a honeymoon and use it as a time to strengthen our relationship, to reaffirm our commitment to each other,” she said, her voice as soft and silky as her golden brown hair. She cast a glance at Elliott, smiling fondly at him. “We wouldn’t be as close as we are today if we hadn’t made that promise to each other.”
Oliver mentally shook his head. He just didn’t see them as the types to covertly smuggle biochemical weapons into Starling City. He would, of course, have Felicity do a search on all the couples to see if he could tie any of them to Starling, especially recently, but they were low on his list.
The two couples who had drawn his scrutiny the previous night were Anson and Melina, and Hunter and Elise. As he’d mentioned to Felicity, Anson and Melina were visibly uncomfortable and that made him wary around them. Hunter and Elise seemed perfectly comfortable, but neither had made any move to spend time with the other. They clearly didn’t want to be in each others’ company, which made Oliver suspicious.
As he watched them, his interest in Hunter and Elise began to wane. Every time Elise opened her mouth she was whining or bitching, and Hunter had his arms crossed over his chest and was rolling his eyes. Oliver was certain the couriers selected by the organization would be better at blending in; these two were drawing all sorts of negative attention their way. His gaze slid back to Elliott and Genevieve consideringly. Now that he thought about it, their lack of distinction made them even better candidates. He mentally moved Hunter and Elise to the bottom of his list and moved Elliott and Genevieve up.
“Hi, I’m Felicity Queen.”
At the sound of Felicity’s voice, Oliver snapped to attention and scooted closer to her, taking her hand in his and smiling down at her adoringly. He was gratified that her breathing hitched momentarily, albeit imperceptibly to anyone not sitting as close to her as he was. His fingers tightened around hers, squeezing in support. She glanced over at him and gave him an affectionate grin.
“We are a total cliché, unfortunately. We met at Queen Consolidated while I was in the IT department, we got to be friends, and he asked me to be his Executive Assistant.” Her sweetly subtle jab at his lack of request made Oliver wince internally. Luckily, he was very experienced in keeping his expression schooled. “We were just CEO and EA for a long time, until we weren’t. Fast-forward a year and, well, here we are. We eloped right before everything with Slade Wilson and his band of crazy erupted-you guys all know about what went down in Starling City a few months ago, right?” She waited until she saw nods of acknowledgement before pressing on. “Well, since everything was in chaos, we decided it wasn’t the best time to make an announcement. We’d lost QC to that sneaky bitch Isabel Rochev and needed to focus on getting it back, and we were trying to help rebuild Starling, so we kept quiet. When a friend of mine mentioned the Tipton retreats, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to get in a honeymoon and work on strengthening our relationship.” She squeezed Oliver’s hand again and gave him a soft, soul-searching, breathtakingly beautiful smile. “Except I kind of don’t think we need that last part. These last couple months have been hell, but I feel so much stronger having gone through it with Ollie at my side.”
Oliver’s expression never wavered, but he felt himself die a little inside. He and Felicity were going to have a chat about that when they had a few moments to themselves.
He was distracted when Anson spoke up, his voice slightly uncertain. “Melina and I thought it would be a good idea to attend some of the workshops. We’ve drifted apart lately due to my work schedule and we decided to kill two birds with one stone, since we’ve never been to Barbados before.” He shot a quick glance at Melina, who looked up briefly, nodded, and lowered her gaze again without making eye contact with anyone.
After the session was over, Oliver noted that Anson, Melina, Hunter, and Elise were the first ones out the door. Donovan and Ariel stood by the refreshment table, talking in low, apparently intense tones. Oliver’s curiosity was piqued, but at that moment Nadia and Peter made their way over to them, accompanied by Raymond.
“Thank you for sharing so much, Felicity,” Raymond said warmly, placing his hand on her forearm and giving her a blinding grin. Oliver bit back a possessive growl and clenched his fist, settling for glaring a warning at the other man. Raymond either didn’t notice or didn’t care, as he continued to smile winningly at the blonde. “Sometimes it’s hard to get people to open up to strangers, so it’s always great when someone breaks the ice. Makes it a lot easier for me, and for everyone else.”
Felicity smiled back. “Ollie would tell you it’s harder to get me to shut up long enough for someone else to talk,” she admitted with a bubble of laughter.
Peter laughed with them. “I can’t imagine that ever being a bad thing,” he chuckled, sidling up to her and putting an arm around her shoulder. “You’re delightful to listen to.”
Felicity’s smile froze in place as she scooted away from him and snuggled into Oliver’s side. “Well, I’m just glad the one person I love with all my heart is willing to put up with my chattering,” she said, beaming up at Oliver. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and wrapped his arm tightly around her waist.
“I love your chattering,” he assured her tenderly, stroking her cheek with his thumb. They gazed at each other for a long moment, until Nadia cleared her throat.
“Well, it was nice starting to get to know you all,” Felicity said brightly. “I’m sure we’ll see you soon!” With that, they gratefully escaped back to their room.
As soon as Oliver shut the door behind him, Felicity breathed a sigh of relief. “That was the exact opposite of fun.” She glanced over at Oliver, who was scowling. “What?”
He spoke through clenched teeth. “Do not ever call me Ollie again.”
Felicity blinked in surprise. “Thea, and Laurel, and Sara all call you Ollie,” she pointed out. “You never freak out at them for doing it. Besides, I thought it would be a wifey thing to do, calling you by a nickname.”
Oliver’s tense posture relaxed and he sighed. “Thea, Laurel, and Sara get by with calling me Ollie because they knew me when I was Ollie,” he explained. “But Felicity, Ollie wasn’t a good person. He was insensitive and careless and oblivious when he hurt people. You wouldn’t have liked Ollie, and I don’t ever want you think of him when you think of me. Ollie would never have been good enough for you.”
Felicity studied him. “But Oliver is,” she finished quietly.
He blanched. He tried not to think about that; he never considered himself to be good enough for Felicity, but more importantly, he wasn’t safe enough for her. He used his lifestyle as the Arrow to block her out, although sometimes he wondered if it was more because he was afraid to admit that even if all the other obstacles were stripped away, he would still cause them to fail. Because he wasn’t good enough.
She sighed as she stood up and crossed over to the dresser. “I’m going down to the pool,” she said, yet again giving him an out to their uncomfortable conversation. “I’m betting that a few of the others will be there as well, so hopefully it’ll give me a chance to strike up some conversations with the women. You should join me in a little while, we can play the picture-perfect couple.” Her words were casual, but Oliver knew her well enough to detect the slight trace of bitterness. He watched helplessly as she threw a few things in a small bag, grabbed a towel and some sunglasses, and swept out of the room.
Oliver growled in frustration. He couldn’t do anything right with Felicity and he was growing more and more afraid that this mission would spell the end of their friendship. He also knew if it did, it would be entirely his fault. He needed to think long and hard about what he was doing and the choice he was making. He needed to decide once and for all if losing Felicity was the price he was willing to pay for keeping her at arms’ length in order to ensure her safety, which he logically knew he would never be able to promise either of them.
More than anything, he needed to be honest with himself about what he was really afraid of. That, he knew, would be the hardest thing of all.
Oliver grimaced as he pulled open the door leading out to the pool and patio area. The sun was brilliant and speared directly into his eyes, blinding him momentarily and giving him an instantaneous headache. He really didn’t want to be here, especially not considering the mood Felicity had been in when she left the room. He’d given her a good hour to circulate and chat with the other ladies and also to give her some space. They weren’t liable to get much of it on this trip and with the tension simmering just under the surface, God knew they needed it.
“Mr. Queen!” It was Raymond, the Casanova from the counseling session. Oliver gritted his teeth before turning his “fake” smile on high.
“Raymond, nice to see you again,” Oliver said, shaking his hand.
Raymond shook his head. “You are not so smart, Mr. Queen,” he said with an “I know something you don’t” lilt to his voice, and Oliver went from disliking him to despising him in an instant. “You left your beautiful new wife down here by herself, and the men, they made sure she didn’t feel alone.”
Oliver glanced over at Felicity and his heart somersaulted. She was wearing a miniscule sapphire-blue bikini, the cups and the tiny triangle at the apex of her thighs all three banded in black. The sides of her bottoms were split into two, and he could see a zipper that would pull them back together if she chose. Apparently, she hadn’t. Between the practically non-existent bottoms and the generous display of cleavage, Oliver was having a very male reaction and he fought to control it before he embarrassed himself.
“Felicity.” His voice was soft, but it carried. She turned her head his way and broke out into a dazzling grin.
“I wondered where you were,” she teased as he walked up and slid his arm around her waist. His fingers bit possessively into her hip and the look of jealousy in his eyes was clear. He doubted she had any idea that he wasn’t acting.
“I fell asleep,” he said shortly. He glanced around. “Doesn’t look like you were hurting for companionship, though.”
She raised one eyebrow at his petulant tone. “No, Peter and Hunter have been very pleasant company,” she said lightly. “Nadia and Elise didn’t feel like coming down to the pool, so we all were left to our own devices.”
“A mistake I won’t make again,” Oliver returned smoothly, his smile charming but his voice steely. He cast an Arrow stare at the two, who quickly wished Felicity a good day and escaped to the safety of their deck chairs.
“Okay, what was that all about?” Felicity hissed as Oliver led her back over to the chaise with her belongings scattered over it.
He tensed. “I didn’t realize you were going to be spending all your time with the men,” he said tightly. “Don’t forget, one of them is part of an organization bent on bringing Starling City down, and is here to bring back the weapons to do it. He’s likely dangerous. I don’t want you alone with any of these guys.”
Felicity rolled her eyes. “I doubt he’s going to assault me at the pool, in full view of everyone. Besides, whoever it is doesn’t even know that’s why we’re here. For all he knows or cares, we’re just another spoiled rich couple enjoying being pampered at a Caribbean resort.”
“Speaking of which…” Oliver settled onto the chaise next to Felicity’s, pulling her down into his lap and snuggling her against his broad chest. “Remember to act like you love me, and not like you want to punch me.”
“I’m a good actress,” she said sweetly, lifting one finger to skim over the light smattering of hair on his chest. “I can do both.”
Oliver chuckled. “You’re very good at multi-tasking,” he admitted, his tone a touch rueful as he recalled her vengeance on poor Mr. Coffee and the way she’d essentially told him off in front of Sebastian. “I’ve never seen someone be as charming as you while seething on the inside.”
Felicity’s nail snagged on his nipple and he gritted his teeth against the sensation. He willed the more sensitive parts of his body to relax, fearing that she’d feel his reaction and the awkwardness between them would be ten times worse.
“You’ve always been able to read me better than anyone else, Oliver,” she reminded him. “You just usually choose not to.” She punctuated her statement by rolling off of him and sliding onto her own lounge chair, easing herself back into the reclining position. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to lay here and bake like a lasagna, pretend I’m here just to relax and not because I got dragged into some hare-brained mission, and forget the name Oliver Queen for the next hour.”
He flinched inwardly when she closed her eyes, slipping on her bright purple sunglasses and effectively shutting him out. Scowling slightly, he turned his back on her and headed for the pool. He needed to work out and clear his head, so without thinking he dove in and started stroking determinedly through the cool, clear blue water.
He wasn’t aware of the admiring glances cast his way as he relentlessly pushed his body from one end of the pool to the other and back again, over and over, for the next forty-five minutes. His muscles burned with fatigue when he finally called a halt to his self-inflicted punishment and pulled himself from the pool. Water sluiced over his body and pooled at his feet as he shook his head, sending droplets flying. His chest glistened when the sun caught the beads still clinging to the sprinkling of hair across it, and his soaking wet swim trunks molded to his thighs, ass, and very male anatomy. He didn’t notice any of it, but the women at the pool certainly did. Especially Felicity.
Her throat went dry as her wide eyes, safely hidden behind her Vuitton sunglasses, drank in every inch of him. She swallowed painfully past it, reaching out blindly for the drink she’d set on the little glass table beside her chair. Once the straw was between her lips she gulped, wincing as the alcohol hit her taste buds, but relishing the cool liquid and the way it soothed her dry, burning throat. She saw him start toward her and steeled herself for whatever was coming.
Oliver crossed the distance between them with quick strides, sitting down on the edge of her chair and playfully shaking his head at her. She squealed as the cold water hit her, pushing at his arm until he leaned back, chuckling. His palm landed on her knee and squeezed, and the warmth shot straight up her thigh to… other places that were now equally warm. Felicity felt a little light-headed and fought to clear the fog from her brain. She flipped her sunglasses up and pushed them back on her head so that she could look into his eyes without a filter. “Are we okay now?”
“I overreacted,” he admitted quietly, and the tension in her shoulders eased. “You know I worry about your safety, and I’m never going to apologize for that. But I brought you with me because I know you can handle yourself. You’ve proven that at every opportunity. I have to stop treating you like you’re a piece of fragile glass.”
His hand released its grip on her knee, migrating north as he brushed his knuckles over her thigh. Felicity’s heart skipped and she reached down, placing her hand over his. “You have to stop,” she whispered. “Even if it is for show, you’re treading on very dangerous ground here.”
Oliver’s eyes darkened. “I’m light on my feet,” he whispered back, and Felicity’s eyes were locked on his, neither of them willing to break eye contact as his hand skimmed ever northward, dragging her hand with it until they were both pressed to her abdomen, their fingers linked together. He leaned in closer, his eyes drifting downward to the lips that were coated, as always, in a layer of bright fuschia, and just slightly parted.
“Go get a room, you two!”
Felicity jumped, and just like that the spell was broken. She glanced over in annoyance at Peter, who was smirking irritably at them. She gave him a sweet smile and without looking back at Oliver, she muttered under her breath, “Remind me to arrange for him to make a generous donation to a charity of our choice when this is all over.”
Oliver huffed out a quiet laugh. “I think we should follow his suggestion, though,” he murmured, and Felicity’s eyes snapped back to his. “I want to know what he and Hunter said before I got here. As well as any other information or impressions you picked up.”
“Good idea,” she said, leaning over to start packing up her stuff.
Once she’d piled it all into her bag, he slid his fingers between hers and tugged her up until she was standing toe-to-toe with him, her chin tilted slightly so that he could see himself in her expressive blue eyes. He faltered for a moment, giving into the rare moment of need to lose himself in her, and the look in her eyes told him she was every bit as affected as he was.
He was starting to become more comfortable with the whole “giving in” concept, and, getting into the spirit of it, he leaned down and brushed his lips over her cheek, landing at the corner of her mouth. It wasn’t what he really wanted to do, but he didn’t want their first real kiss to be part of the performance. They both deserved better than that, and he refused to let this charade rob them of everything.
Oliver dropped Felicity’s hand so that he could slide his arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer to him as he guided her back inside the hotel and up to their room. “So what were your thoughts?” he asked as he shut the door behind them.
“I really don’t think it’s Hunter and Elise,” she said immediately, crossing over to the closet and pulling out a sarong and halter top. Oliver breathed a silent sigh of relief as she slipped the clothing over her skimpy bikini, and he could relax the iron grip he was holding on his libido. “Hunter was kind of a grouch, and when I asked why Elise wasn’t around he just said that she could pretty much be guaranteed to not be wherever he was. So I asked why they’d bothered to come to the retreat since it seemed like neither one of them was interested in working on their relationship, and he shrugged and said his in-laws paid for it because Elise is their darling and they wanted things to be better for her.” She sank down onto the couch by the window and Oliver joined her, bringing her tablet from the bedside table.
“I tend to agree with you. I think that both Hunter and Elise have made a point of bringing attention to themselves, and I really don’t think our targets would want that,” Oliver said, frowning. “I had essentially moved them off my list after the counseling session this morning. You just confirmed for me that I made the right decision.”
Felicity had turned her tablet on and her fingers were skimming over it rapid-fire. Oliver was trying to see what she was doing but gave up when screens flashed and disappeared just as rapidly. “So that leaves us with Donovan and Ariel, Anson and Melina, Elliott and Genevieve, and Peter and Nadia.”
“What do you think about Elliott and Genevieve?” he asked, curious if she would have come to the same thought he did.
She paused in her search, considering him thoughtfully. “I really don’t want to think it’s them because they’re both so incredibly nice, but it would absolutely make sense,” she said finally. “They are really selling the ideal couple role so well, and you have to imagine these couriers would be able to do that. I mean, in order to be chosen for this assignment, from all of the potentials in the organization, they have to have instilled confidence in whoever’s in charge that they can pull it off.”
Oliver nodded. “I think we should take a much deeper look at them. We should see if we can sit with them at dinner tonight.”
“I’m starting to have my doubts about Nadia and Peter,” she admitted reluctantly. She hated being wrong with Oliver, and didn’t want to hear him rub it in if it turned out to be Melina and Anson. “Peter’s a scummy jerk, but Nadia just doesn’t play for me. She literally didn’t pay attention to anything that was going on during the session, she spent the whole time examining her nails. And when I asked Peter where she was, he said he didn’t really know and then proceeded to grab my butt and ask if I wanted to take her place for a little while.”
Oliver growled and Felicity rolled her eyes. “Cool it. You don’t have to pretend to be jealous, there’s no one here to see your performance.” To her credit, her tone had lost the bitterness from earlier.
“I object to him thinking he has the right to touch any woman like that, but especially you,” he protested irritably. “It has nothing to do with jealousy.”
Felicity shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I removed his hand and told him your muscles weren’t just God-given, they were earned honestly, and I was pretty sure you could knock out the entire scope of his dental work with one solid punch if he couldn’t remember that I’m a married woman. He didn’t try anything again for the rest of the time I was with him.”
Oliver broke out into a grin. He almost wished he’d been there to see it.
“Anyway, I’m willing to put Peter and Nadia at the bottom of the list,” she concluded. “Anson and Melina, though, I just can’t figure them out. They seem so uncomfortable, but not sketchy. I did a first-level pass on them while I was waiting for some of the others to show up at the pool, and they seem to check out. Married for 8 years, he’s an astrophysicist, she’s in pharmaceuticals. They make bank but don’t seem to spend much of it, although they’ve got the requisite nice house, half a dozen expensive cars, and a few credit cards. But they don’t go out and blow loads of cash like the rest of you filthy rich people do,” she added with a smirk.
He ignored her. “We haven’t discussed Donovan and Ariel yet,” he pointed out quietly.
She balked. “No. I’ve spent too much time with Donovan, I would know it if he was capable of this,” she protested. “There’s no way it’s him.”
Oliver shook his head slowly. “Everyone has a mask, Felicity,” he reminded her. “Would anyone look at me when I’m making the rounds at Verdant and think it’s possible that I’m the Arrow?”
“Detective Lance would,” she mumbled.
He sighed. “Lance knows I’m the Arrow. He has to. He’s too intelligent and there are too many ‘coincidences’ for him not to know. He’s just choosing to let it slide.”
Felicity considered that, admitting that Oliver was probably right. “Still. I really just cannot see Donovan Blackstock working for a weapons smuggling ring. He’s too committed to his business to have a secret side thing going, especially one that would take as much time and effort as this.”
Oliver shrugged. “So we put them near the bottom of the list with Peter and Nadia. We can’t rule them out completely, though. At least not yet.”
“Fine. I still have to do deeper passes on everyone, so I’ll just run theirs last. Speaking of which, I need some time to dedicate to electronic digging. When am I going to be able to do that?”
He consulted their itinerary. “We have a one-on-one session scheduled for ten tomorrow, and nothing after that. Maybe we can stay in tomorrow so you can do what you need to do.”
Felicity’s eyes sparkled. “Oooor, we could go down to one of the private beaches and I can do my searches surfside.”
He swallowed. A whole afternoon with Felicity and her tiny swimwear and no one else around to distract him. It was a recipe for temptation that might push things too far and he wanted nothing more than to say no, but the hopeful look in her eyes killed his objections. “Of course, if you think you can get all the equipment you need down to the beach.”
She nodded enthusiastically. “No problem! I can do most of what I need to do from my tablet, but I brought the laptop for additional hard drive capabilities. It’ll be fine.” She glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table and her eyes widened. “We need to start getting ready for dinner, especially if we want to get down there early enough to sweet talk our way into eating with Elliott and Genevieve.” She bounced off the couch and headed for the shower.
Oliver sighed as she disappeared into the bathroom, instinctively wanting to follow. It was only the first full day and his willpower was already stretched thin; he couldn’t begin to imagine where things would end. Somehow, he had a feeling that all his carefully crafted excuses and determination to keep his distance weren’t going to hold up against the force that was Felicity Smoak much longer.
The dining room was lit by chandeliers and extravagant candelabra when Oliver and Felicity entered a short time later. Felicity wanted to “oooh” at the sparkling lights and refracted diamond patterns skipping over the silverware, but she didn’t want to appear gauche so she managed to contain her pleasure to a simple smile. She glanced up at Oliver, who had his hand firmly on her lower back, and he smiled back down at her. It was a real smile, not his fake “Oliver Queen the billionaire” smile, or “Oliver Queen the CEO” smile, but his, “You’re my Felicity” smile. Felicity’s breath caught in her throat at the tenderness in his eyes.
Not wanting to spoil the moment, she was hesitant to point out that Elliott and Genevieve were standing in the doorway across the room, having arrived at nearly the same time. Oliver, unfortunately, saw them a fraction of a moment later, and his smile transitioned almost seamlessly from “Felicity” to “billionaire”. She marveled at his chameleon-like personality changes. If she didn’t know the various sides of him already, she wouldn’t be able to believe that he could be all of them from moment to moment.
“Elliott, Genevieve, nice to see you again,” he said as they both came further into the room, his voice charming and his eyes spearing into them like lasers. The other couple brightened when they saw him.
“Hello, Oliver. Felicity,” Elliott responded, taking Felicity’s hand and raising it to his lips. He was a handsome man, a few inches shorter than Oliver but still a commanding presence. His blonde hair and brown eyes were both unassuming and compelling at the same time. Felicity glanced up at Oliver through lowered eyelashes, not surprised to see the tightening of his jaw. “How are you enjoying the Tipton?”
“We haven’t done much exploring,” Oliver admitted with a chuckle. His eyes slid back to Felicity and Genevieve smiled knowingly.
“When you decide to get out a bit, you’ll find you’ll love Barbados,” she said, her gray eyes twinkling. “Elliott and I have been back here three times since our honeymoon, although this is only the second time for a retreat. We adore it here.”
Elliott slid his arm around her waist and tugged her closer, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “It’s been good to us. Our marriage started here, and it’s thrived here.”
Genevieve grinned at them. “I bet it will be the same for you.”
Oliver smiled down at Felicity. “I already know we’ll be back,” he murmured, and she felt a bit light-headed. “It’s nice to be away from the day-to-day and get to discover a new side to ourselves, and the two of us together.”
Felicity leaned into him with a contented sigh and he pulled her against his side, brushing his lips across the top of her head. The conversation fell into a lull as some of the others joined them. Oliver engaged Donovan and Ariel quickly and she hung back, waiting for Melina and Anson to enter. When they did, she pasted a bright smile on her face and greeted them warmly.
“Hello Melina, Anson,” she said cheerfully as they got closer.
They glanced at each other before giving her cautious, half-hearted smiles, and her radar went off. She hated to admit it but Oliver might be right about these two. Her preliminary search hadn’t turned up anything to arouse her suspicions, but their behavior was just downright bizarre. She couldn’t imagine why a couple so anxious and clearly uncomfortable with their surroundings would choose to put themselves in the middle of a group of strangers and talk about themselves and their relationship. It seemed so at odds with what she would expect if she knew them personally.
“How are you enjoying Barbados?” she asked, pushing on and refusing to let their reticence sway her from getting to know them.
“It’s very nice,” Anson responded non-committally, and Felicity gritted her teeth in frustration. Luckily, at that moment Oliver noticed she’d drifted away and he came to join her.
“Everyone’s sitting down for dinner,” he said as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Why don’t we go join them?”
“As long as we don’t have to sit next to these two,” she whispered in his ear, and he smiled as if she’d said something intimate.
“I agree,” he replied with a soft chuckle, leading her toward where Donovan and Ariel sat. She perked up as she slid into the seat across from him.
“It’s nice to see you two again,” Felicity remarked as she spread her linen napkin across her lap. “It’s great to see some friendly faces here. Makes me feel a little bit less like a fish out of water,” she added with a musical laugh. She was unaware of Oliver’s affectionate gaze, but she did notice the dour look on Ariel’s face and tried to engage her in friendly conversation. “Have you been enjoying your stay?”
The other blonde took a sip of her white wine. “We’ve been here for barely 24 hours,” she pointed out dryly. “We haven’t done much of anything that could be considered enjoyable.”
Felicity felt bad for Donovan, who was clearly embarrassed by his wife’s attitude even though he tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. “I’ve had to spend most of the day dealing with an emergency at work,” he admitted with a slight grimace. “It was something that couldn’t be handled by my executive leadership team and unfortunately it diverted my attention from the reason we came here. Poor Ariel has been a champ to put up with it.” He cast an adoring look at his wife, who seemed unimpressed.
“It comes with the territory,” she said with a casual shrug of her shoulders. “You should get used to it,” she added, directing her comment at Felicity with a smirk. “Oliver may be attentive and loving now, but it won’t be six months before you’re eating your dinners alone and falling asleep while straining to hear the sound of his footsteps on the stairs.”
Oliver bristled next to her and Felicity placed a hand on his forearm to stall his retort. “I’ve been working with him at Queen Consolidated for over a year now,” she reminded Ariel, her voice firm. “I know what his schedule is like because I organize it. I think if we’ve managed to not only survive but thrive thus far, we’ll find a way to make it work in the future.”
She punctuated her reply with a sweet smile and lifted her glass of red to her equally dark lips, but choked as Oliver’s hand slid over her upper thigh and squeezed lightly, his fingers curling until they brushed the inner curve of the sensitive skin. Felicity spluttered and coughed, wine dripping down her chin as she wheezed and fought to catch her breath. She caught sight of Oliver’s face, which was equal parts concern and amusement, and gave him a dirty look as she lifted the napkin from her lap (which unfortunately hadn’t been high enough to block Oliver’s roaming fingers) and dabbed at the dribbles of wine that still clung to her lips.
“Are you okay?” Donovan asked in concern, and she nodded sheepishly.
“I try to be a credit to Oliver, but unfortunately my spastic ways haven’t gone away simply because I now have money at my disposal,” she said ruefully.
Donovan laughed heartily. “Don’t ever change,” he insisted, his blue eyes sparkling with mirth. “Your candor is refreshing, especially in a circle that is overpopulated with plastic Stepford robots.”
Oliver smiled pleasantly at him. “It was Felicity’s uniqueness and consistently doing the exact opposite of what I would expect that drew my attention to begin with,” he said with a perfunctory chuckle, and Felicity swung her head to sharply meet his gaze. He grinned back at her, his face angelically innocent, and she mentally rolled her eyes.
Dinner progressed rather uneventfully from that point, and Felicity was more convinced than ever that Donovan couldn’t possibly be part of the weapon smuggling business. The conversation was delightful and she enjoyed the social time spent with him as much as she had the business-related time. Ariel, however, was another story. She looked bored and indifferent most of the meal and refrained from participating in the conversation, except to make the occasional snide observance.
At the end of the night, Oliver made their excuses and Felicity followed him back to their room. She sank onto the bed and kicked off her shoes, massaging her temples. “Can we agree that Donovan and Ariel are out?”
Oliver hesitated. “I think they’re close to the bottom of the list, along with Peter and Nadia. But I won’t rule them out.”
“I guess we can’t really rule out any of them,” Felicity pointed out practically. “Not at this stage. It’s only been a day. I think we’ll learn a lot more when I’m able to do some digging tomorrow.”
Oliver nodded absently, his expression suddenly going far away, and Felicity was about to indulge her curiosity and ask what he was thinking when her phone chimed. Picking it up, she brightened immediately and Oliver didn’t fail to notice. “Who’s that?”
She smiled fondly. “Barry. He asked me to come see him in Central City when I got back. He has something he wants to tell me.”
Oliver gritted his teeth and she gave him a questioning look. “Is everything okay?”
He nodded shortly. “I’m going to go down to the hotel gym and get in a quick workout,” he said brusquely. “I’ll be back up in a little bit.”
Felicity nodded, her face showing her uncertainty at his change in temperament. She knew it wasn’t unusual for him to go from one extreme to another in a matter of minutes, and their current situation clearly was wearing on both of them. He was bound to feel the pressure and need a release. However, she was off-kilter herself and grudgingly admitted that she was relying on him to keep her balanced. She was starting to realize that was a foolish decision.
She texted Barry back as Oliver changed into a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, grabbed a duffel bag for his towel, water bottle, and another change of clothes, and left the room. She frowned bemusedly as he carefully shut the door, knowing that he only took such care because he really wanted to be forceful. She wondered what had put him in such a grouchy mood when dinner had been so nice, Ariel’s attitude aside. Shaking her head, she reminded herself that Oliver’s mood changes were mercurial and often mystifying, and she would probably never truly understand the reasons behind them.
Settling back onto the bed, Felicity lifted her tablet from the bedside stand and powered it on. She was tempted to get the searches started, but she knew she’d have plenty of time tomorrow and also that if she got started on them tonight, she wouldn’t be able to resist seeing them through and would be up until the wee hours of the morning. Instead, she began formulating her thoughts and then writing them up, taking notes on all the interactions she’d had with the various couples and her opinions and instincts regarding them.
After an hour she stopped, flexing the cramps out of her fingers, and re-read what she’d written. She had to admit she was as confused as ever. There was no clear emerging pattern, nothing that stood out as glaringly obvious, aside from her discomfort with Melina and Anson. She knew, however, she couldn’t be judge, jury, and executioner just because they were an odd pair-after all, it wasn’t like a requirement for attending a couples’ retreat was gregariousness and the ability to be friendly and engaging with everyone who crossed your path.
The door opened, startling her out of her thoughts, and she couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face as Oliver appeared in the doorway. He had clearly showered in the locker room downstairs, because his hair was damp and he was wearing his fresh pair of sweats. She could see an answering smile appear on his lips.
“What are you working on?” he asked as he crossed the room, sitting down on the bed beside her.
Felicity felt her stomach go fluttery as his shoulder brushed against hers, and she was secretly pleased that their increased comfort level the last two days hadn’t caused her to become immune to his nearness. She took a deep breath and got her head straight before reviewing everything she’d written up while he was gone. “I really don’t know what to think,” she confessed. “Nothing seems to jump out at me. There’s nothing that really makes me go, ‘I think we need to focus in this direction’. It’s frustrating.”
Oliver unthinkingly covered her hand with his, lacing his fingers between hers. “We’ll figure it out,” he reassured her. “I know we can do this. We just haven’t found the right piece of information yet. Tomorrow will get us one step closer to finding what we need.”
She took a deep breath and nodded, tightening her fingers between his, grateful for his confidence and assurance. She hated feeling like she was failing, and that was exactly how she felt now.
As if sensing that she was inwardly berating herself, he reached out with his other hand and gently lifted her chin so he could meet her gaze. “We’ll get this, Felicity. It’s only been one day, and I don’t expect miracles from you. If we knew who it was already, or even had a really strong suspicion, I’d be surprised. Give it time.”
“We don’t have much of that in supply,” she pointed out in frustration. “We have less than a week to not only figure out who the couriers are, but how to stop them.”
“And we will,” he said firmly. He stood up and walked over to the dresser, fishing around in one of the drawers. He pulled out a plain gray t-shirt and handed it to her. “Here. It’s not fancy, but I think you’ll be more comfortable in it than what the shopper sent with you.” More to the point, I’ll be more comfortable, he added silently.
She took the t-shirt with a small smile and a soft thank you and scooted off the bed, heading for the bathroom to change.
As she closed the door behind her, her phone chirped from the bedside table and Oliver reached for it, scolding himself for invading her privacy but somehow not caring. When he saw the text from Barry he scowled, pausing only a fraction of a second before opening it up.
I can’t wait to see you, Felicity. I hate that we lost so much time; we need to make up for that. Have a great rest of your vacation!
Oliver’s grip tightened on the phone until he was practically squeezing it, his jaw locked and his teeth grinding together. He debated with himself for what seemed like an eternity, but eventually his selfish side won out and he deleted the text. He convinced himself that Felicity would never know and it wasn’t like it had contained any important information she needed.
The door to the bathroom opened and Oliver dropped the phone back on the stand like it was scalding him. Looking up, he squelched the groan rising in his throat. He’d thought the black gown from last night was torture, but seeing her there, her glasses off and her soft blonde hair down and waving around her face, dressed in his t-shirt like she’d casually thrown it on after an endless night of sex-which you know would be fucking amazing, his brain taunted him-was a new fresh hell altogether. Her silky legs looked a mile long, the hem of his shirt brushing just barely below the tops of her thighs, a flash of the pale yellow silk of her panties visible with each step she took.
He glanced up at her face and saw the faint flush, the uncertainty, and he sighed internally. He couldn’t tell her that the t-shirt was causing his thin strand of control to stretch to its breaking point. The only thing he could do was ignore her, ignore the rush of heat to his gut and his groin, and flip the comforter back so she could slide into bed beside him.
Her hair flowed over her pillow and he instinctively turned so that his nose was pressed into it. He took a deep breath and willed himself not to react to the intoxicating scent. His hand stole its way to her abdomen, and if she sucked in a deep breath he pretended not to notice. His fingers splayed across the soft cotton, feeling the rise and fall under his hand, and he closed his eyes, and fell asleep.
When Oliver woke up the next morning, the first thing he noticed was the sweet scent he now associated with Felicity’s hair. The second thing he noticed was the pressure on his upper thigh, and the silky skin beneath his fingertips.
He cracked open one eye and swallowed hard. Felicity’s head nestled in the hollow between his shoulder and neck, her hair streaming across his chest, just under his chin. That accounted for the scent invading his senses. Her leg-her very bare leg-was thrown over his upper thigh, her knee pressed gently into the side of his cock-his unfortunately very hard cock. His arm was curled around her back, much like it was the morning before, only this time his hand had slipped below the waistband of her panties and his palm was fitted to the curve of her ass.
He couldn’t breathe. He was at the gates of Heaven, and ironically even closer to Hell. He was on fire and he wanted nothing more than to say “fuck it all”, wake her up with a kiss that involved teeth and tongue and liquid heat, rip off those flimsy silk panties, bury himself inside her, and make her come before she even had time to process what was happening. The rational side of him knew better, and he gently extricated his hand from her panties as she stirred and moaned sleepily.
Oliver gritted his teeth as she stretched, her knee more firmly nudging his already painful erection. He squirmed away from her and onto his side, facing the opposite wall and trying to rein in his erratic breathing while she yawned and slowly roused.
“Morning,” she said, her voice rough from sleep. He could feel her sit up in the bed and stretch, and his throat went dry when he imagined his shirt rising up and sliding over her breasts, her nipples abraded by the thin cotton and hardening into little peaks. His cock responded quickly to the mental visual and he desperately searched for anything to keep himself from exploding right there in the bed. Thea’s face popped into his head and he both grimaced and sighed gratefully as the internal pressure on his straining cock eased.
“Good morning,” he croaked back, and Felicity giggled at the less-than-dulcet sound of his voice. He swung his feet to the floor and aimed himself in the direction of the bathroom. Pausing, he turned his head slightly to address her over his shoulder. “I’m going to jump in the shower and then we’ll come up with a game plan for the day. Sound good?” He waited just long enough to see her nod and then escaped into the bathroom.
Once the water was pounding down forcefully and he was under the steaming spray, Oliver took himself in hand to relieve his tension. His mind returned to the fantasy of a sexy wake-up call for Felicity and it didn’t take long for him to achieve release. His soft, shuddering groan as he erupted was disguised by the sound of the water and he took a moment to collect himself. When his mind had cleared he quickly ran through the rest of his shower routine and then stepped out, drying himself off. He cursed as he realized in his haste he hadn’t remember to bring his clothes in with him, and he wrapped the towel around his waist before venturing back into the bedroom.
He saw her catch sight of him out of the corner of her eye and her eyes widened as she swallowed audibly. She quickly turned her head away from him, then slowly let her gaze swing back. Her eyes drifted up to his and when she realized he was watching her watching him, she flushed scarlet before jumping out of the bed and running for the bathroom herself.
Oliver chuckled to himself. He was having dangerous reactions that were taking him closer and closer to his breaking point, but at least he knew he wasn’t going there alone.
While Felicity was in the shower-which he would not think about, damn it-he got dressed. He pulled on a pair of faded jeans and a lightweight, dark blue button-up. He pushed the sleeves up to his elbows and brushed his teeth as he heard the shower turn off. In his mind he imagined her stepping out of the shower, her long blonde hair wet and tangled, streaming down her naked back. The water would be dripping off of her satiny skin, rivulets running into secret places that he ached to find with his exploring fingers and questing tongue.
Taking a deep breath and steeling himself against his betraying thoughts, Oliver rinsed off his toothbrush and lifted his gaze to the mirror when the door opened a crack and Felicity poked her head out sheepishly.
“Can you grab me one of the maxi dresses hanging in the closet?” she asked, not quite meeting his eyes. “Doesn’t matter which one.”
Oliver nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He rummaged in the closet for a moment, selecting a dress with a dark blue bandeau top and a flowy white skirt with blue palm trees and tropical birds scattered across it. He liked the idea that their wardrobes complimented each other. He handed it to her through the door and she accepted with a quietly-muttered “thank you”.
She stepped out several minutes later, her wet hair rolled into a dark blonde French twist and the dress clinging to her every curve. The bandeau hugged her breasts, the slightest hint of cleavage visible above the top of it. Oliver desperately wanted to rip it off of her and spend the day in bed instead of going to a counseling session where he’d be forced to come up with lie after lie on the spot, but it was important they keep up appearances so no one doubted the legitimacy of their need to be there.
He cleared his throat and she looked at him questioningly. “What are your plans for doing the searches today?”
She grinned happily. “I am going to haul my tablet, my laptop, and my bikini-clad butt down to the oceanside and plunk myself down in the warm white sand, make a couple of sand-angels, bury my toes in it, and forget about life for a few hours,” she said, her tone blissful. “I’m going to do second-level passes on Melina and Anson, as well as Elliott and Genevieve, first. Then I’ll move on to Peter and Nadia, Donovan and Ariel, and Hunter and Claire, in that order. Once I have some more data we can figure out what we want to do and where we want to focus.”
Oliver knew where he wanted to focus, but he didn’t think that was what Felicity had in mind. “We have to get through this counseling session first, then we can be beach bums,” he said instead, focusing his mind on the challenge at hand instead of Felicity in a bikini. “Do you feel comfortable doing this on the fly?” he asked, realizing it was a rather belated question.
Felicity smirked. “Not really,” she said wryly, “but it’s not like I have much of a choice. Besides, like you said, we play off each other really well. And it’s not like we have to come up with matching stories, it’s just like story-telling tag team. You start it, I continue it. We can make it up as we go along. Who cares what we say, anyway? It’s not like we’re ever coming back here.”
“I don’t know about that,” he said softly, and she narrowed her gaze at him. “I think it would be nice to come back when we can appreciate the beauty around us instead of focusing on what we’re here to do.” He didn’t disguise that he was looking at her, and she flushed slightly.
“We better head downstairs,” she said, her tone artificially bright and cheery. “Time to go be an actress again.”
Oliver followed just behind her as she left the room, his hand resting lightly on her lower back, and considered how much he really didn’t want her to be playing a role. Strangely enough, he was starting to get more and more comfortable with thoughts like that, and less and less worried about that level of comfort. He was starting to wonder if it would be so bad to let his guard down, and let her in.
They entered what was normally an office, but for the purposes of the retreat it had been converted to a comfortable sitting area. Oliver scowled when he saw the smarmy Raymond sitting in the lone chair that faced another pair.
“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Queen!” Raymond greeted them enthusiastically. “May I call you Oliver and Felicity, to escape the formalities? This is to be a time and space for you to be relaxed, to encourage openness and communication.”
Felicity nodded. “Of course. That’s what we’re here for.”
Oliver waited until Felicity was seated in one of the deep blue, cushy chairs before sitting down himself. “I thought you ran the group sessions,” he remarked, his smile plastic and his teeth on edge.
Raymond chuckled. “I do, normally, but one of our regular counselors was unavailable for this particular retreat, so I was asked to take on the individual sessions for at least one couple. I gladly accepted for you two,” he said, beaming at Felicity.
To Oliver’s dismay, she returned his smile with a blinding grin of her own. “Well I, for one, am glad I don’t have to get used to yet another new person,” she giggled. “It’s hard getting comfortable with spilling all about myself to a stranger.”
Raymond winked. “Somehow, Felicity, I can’t imagine you being uncomfortable with anyone.”
She laughed. “You’ve made it comfortable to be so open,” she returned easily. Oliver shot her a scowl and she frowned in return.
Raymond was quick to catch it. “Is everything okay, Oliver?” he prodded.
Oliver glanced at Felicity again, his displeasure clear. “There are times I’m not comfortable with how friendly my new bride is with everyone she meets,” he replied. “She encourages attention I’d rather she not, and she fights me on it when I ask her to restrain herself.”
Felicity sighed. “Oliver, you have nothing to be jealous of,” she said patiently. She glanced over at Raymond. “He doesn’t seem to understand no one else matters to me. I’m just a friendly person, not a flirt.”
Raymond shook his head. “Oliver, jealousy is a double-edged sword,” he warned. “If you hold on too tightly and resent the attention Felicity gives to others, it will only cause the two of you problems and harm your marriage in the long run.”
Oliver smirked. “Thanks for the platitudes,” he snorted. “I could have picked that out of any Psych 101 textbook.”
Felicity poked him in the arm. “Be nice,” she hissed. “It’s not Raymond’s fault you’re controlling.”
Oliver lifted an eyebrow at her incredulously. “Controlling?” he protested. “When have I ever been controlling?”
“Only every time I ask to do something you disapprove of or don’t want me involved in,” she retorted. “It’s always because you think you know what’s best for me, but sometimes you don’t.”
Raymond watched the exchange with interest. “Oliver, do you feel you need to control Felicity’s actions, her comings and goings?”
Oliver glared at the other man. “Of course not,” he gritted out. “But sometimes she wants to do things I think are dangerous or that she has no place being a part of.” He frowned at her. “She’s my wife, and I love her. It’s my job to look out for her and make sure she’s protected.”
Felicity softened, her eyes taking on a new warmth. “I love you too, Oliver,” she said quietly, and Oliver’s throat closed up. He couldn’t be sure, but it almost looked like she meant it. For real. “I never want to worry you, but sometimes I feel like you’re trying to keep me from living the life I want to live. I chose you. I will always choose you. But that doesn’t always mean I’m only going to choose you.”
“Felicity is a very wise woman,” Raymond said sagely. “She understands the importance of balance between a relationship and life, and considering her partner’s needs as well as her own.”
Oliver rolled his eyes. “I’m going to be the bad guy no matter what, aren’t I?” he grumbled. “Felicity’s perfect and I suck.”
Felicity reached over and put her hand on his arm. “I’m far from perfect,” she said simply. “I’m stubborn and egotistical and obsessive sometimes. That’s why we’re such a great match,” she said impishly, and Oliver couldn’t help breaking into a grin. “But I would never ask you to be anyone other than who you are. I worry about you all the time. There are times I want to ask you not to do something, but I know that if I did it wouldn’t stop you from doing it. It would just make you feel guilty about it, and I don’t want that to be a defining element of our marriage.”
Oliver realized that somehow this “fake” counseling session had turned into a real one. They were unwittingly delving into the issues that kept him from truly committing to her. He suddenly felt like maybe this could be exactly what he needed, and he decided to take it seriously. “Felicity, you know your support means everything to me,” he said sincerely, and her eyes shimmered slightly at the rush of real emotion in his voice. “I couldn’t be who I am without you. You are at the heart of everything I do. You’re my conscience, the voice of reason in my head when I react on impulse, the person who keeps me grounded. The idea of losing that, of losing you, terrifies me.”
A single tear trickled down her cheek and Oliver reached up to gently brush it away. Raymond cleared his throat and Oliver cut his eyes over to the other man, annoyed at the distraction. “You are not a man who easily opens up about his feelings, are you, Oliver?” he asked.
Oliver barely resisted the urge to open up and tell Raymond how he felt about him. “I do when it’s necessary,” he said gruffly.
“You will find that in order to grow a healthy marriage, sharing yourself is of utmost importance,” Raymond replied. “It is much easier to maintain something that is whole than it is to fix something that is broken. If you wait until you’ve done damage to your marriage, then you may not be able to repair it with words that have been too long withheld.”
Oliver bristled at the other man’s sanctimonious tone, but reluctantly admitted to himself there was truth in his words. Felicity squeezed his arm. “Don’t worry,” she said lightly. “I’m the confrontational one in our relationship. When he’s withholding, I drag it out of him. And he’s always grateful afterward,” she added, her voice teasing, her eyes glowing with affection.
Oliver smiled down at her, acknowledging that the warmth spreading through his chest had everything to do with this woman and how happy she made him. She truly was the brightest part of his life, the best part of it. He couldn’t be the Arrow without her. He wondered how he thought he could push her away at the same time he pulled her tighter, and how much longer he could have put them both through it before she snapped and walked away from him. He wasn’t willing to lose her, and he understood that meant putting her at risk. It was a hard thing to swallow, but he realized she would never walk away from this life and the risk was inherent in what they did. He couldn’t protect her from everything.
Raymond glanced at the clock and stood up, Oliver and Felicity following suit. “This was a good session,” he praised them. “I think you both took an important step toward understanding each other and making your marriage a partnership. I look forward to seeing you again in two days.”
Oliver refrained from responding that he could happily go the rest of his life without ever seeing Raymond again, and instead gave him an insincere smile. “Until then.”
Felicity chattered as they returned to their room, and Oliver listened with half an ear. His thoughts kept returning to what he was going to do about their situation. He wanted to take the plunge, but didn’t know if he could. There was so much to lose if something went bad.
“Give me five minutes to get ready, okay? I just need to throw on my swimsuit and coverup and grab my beach bag and computers.”
Oliver smiled indulgently. “Take all the time you need,” he said. “There’s no hurry.”
She shook her head. “I’m dying to get out into the sand and the water,” she returned. “I’m hurrying for me, not you.”
Oliver laughed at her enthusiasm. True to her word, five minutes later she was changed and had gathered up everything she needed. She refused to let him carry her electronics so he took the bag with her towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and other assorted paraphernalia necessary for the beach, and they headed back out once again.
Felicity felt her spirits lift considerably as soon as she and Oliver set foot on the beach. The water was impossibly blue and stretched on for what seemed like forever, and when she slipped off her sandals, she relished the feel of the burning sand underneath her feet. She spread her towel out and carefully arranged her electronics to avoid getting them covered in sand. When she glanced up, she caught sight of the look of affectionate amusement on Oliver’s face.
Her brow furrowed. “What?” she asked, her tone slightly defensive.
Oliver shook his head. “I was just thinking how you’re so different from anyone I’ve ever known,” he said simply. His expression softened as he added, “And I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
She flushed a little bit, while simultaneously being pleased that his compliments no longer made her really feel awkward or embarrassed. They were settling into a level of comfort with each other that they had never approached before, so she supposed that this trip wasn’t as awful as she was afraid it was going to be.
Unthinkingly, Felicity gripped the hem of her cover-up and pulled upward, removing it quickly and tossing it on the sand beside her towel. She grabbed the bottle of suntan lotion and began smoothing it on her arms and chest, over her shoulders, face, and legs. When everything was done but her back, she looked over at Oliver and gave him a pleading look. “A little help, please?”
Oliver had stopped breathing several minutes ago. The moment that cover-up had cleared her head he swore he was going to burst into flame. She was wearing a bright, shiny fuchsia… something. It was a bikini, but not really. The tiny bottoms were held together with large gold rings on the side, making it seem as if there were actually no sides at all. The bandeau-style top met in the center, the cups connected by a large gold ring that showcased her cleavage. A narrow strip of material ran from the center of the bottoms to the golden ring between her breasts. The swimsuit was so evocative that Oliver wanted to do nothing more than just pull it off of her and lay her down on the towel before covering her body with his.
He tamped down on his desire. Not only was this a beach where anyone could join them at any time, he knew from firsthand experience how uncomfortable sex on a beach actually was. No one ever talked about how sand got everywhere, including the most uncomfortable of crevices, and you ended up feeling like your insides were given a massive sandpaper scrubdown. Instead, he sighed quietly and motioned for Felicity to turn around.
He bit back a groan when Felicity presented him with her back. The bottoms were impossibly tiny, even worse than her bikini the previous day at the pool. Her ass filled the material out nicely, the curves just begging for him to fit his palm to them. The bottoms dipped low enough that he could almost see the point where her cheeks split, and he ached to sink to his knees and press his tongue to it. The bandeau top, which looked as if it took a super-human feat of engineering to stay up to begin with, was secured only by a knot in the back. It would take very little effort to slide the two sides of the fabric loose and then the entire suit would collapse, barely hanging on at her hips, leaving her gorgeous body bare for him to explore.
Reluctantly pushing that thought out of his mind, he gently lifted her thick mane of hair and draped it over one shoulder before coating his hands in the lotion. He began massaging it into her shoulder blades, over her upper back and neck, and down her lower back until his fingers met the top edge of her bottoms.
Felicity bit her lip to stifle a moan of pleasure as his hands methodically and thoroughly worked the lotion into her warm skin. As they drifted further south she had to keep herself from gasping aloud. Regrettably, his hands lifted from her body and he handed the tube back to her, not quite meeting her eyes as she turned around.
“There, I think you should be safe from frying in the sun,” he said lightly, taking a step back to reduce some of the tension.
Felicity nodded, not trusting herself to speak, and hurriedly sank down onto the towel. She pulled the laptop in front of her and was soon absorbed in the task, her fingers flying as her eyes darted from one point on the screen to another. Oliver tried to keep track for awhile, then eventually gave up and went about getting settled in himself.
He spread out his own towel, an enormous thing he could have done a full spread-eagle on and still had room to spare on all sides. Before lying down, he pulled his shirt over his head and then quickly shucked his jeans. He was wearing a pair of swim trunks underneath, a simple black with green stripes banded around his thighs. He glanced over at Felicity as he briskly rubbed the sunscreen into his own skin, expecting to see her eyes peering at him furtively over the edge of her laptop, and was disappointed to realize she was still entranced with her computer.
Oliver waited as long as he could stand before speaking up. “Are you going to run all those searches manually, or can you set them up to auto-respond?”
Felicity started, her shoulders jerking in surprise. She looked over at him, a slight frown marring her beautiful face. “I can set up an alert, but I have several searches I’m working on simultaneously. I thought it might go faster if I was doing some of the work manually.”
Oliver pulled himself to his feet and stretched out a hand, waiting until she placed hers in it. “You can take a break for ten minutes,” he cajoled, tugging her gently until she rose to stand beside him. His eyes twinkled as he grinned down at her, turning the charm on full-force. “You have all day to dig up everything you can on our retreat-mates. Let’s go for a swim.”
With that, he dropped her hand and turned, aiming for the water’s edge and taking off in a sprint. Felicity’s competitive instinct kicked in and she raced after him, not surprised and only a little disappointed when he splashed into the water a yard ahead of her. She hit the water seconds later, but the wet sand shifted under her feet and she lost her balance, falling forward with a startled yelp. She flinched, waiting to hit the water face-first, but strong arms wrapped around her and kept her from taking an unexpected dunking.
She looked up at him, her heart jack-hammering in her chest. This wasn’t even close to the first time he’d held her in his arms, but something about both of them being nearly naked and alone on a private beach on a Caribbean island, just made it feel a whole lot different. Judging by the intensity in Oliver’s eyes, she wasn’t the only one feeling it.
And judging by the rigid flesh pressed against her stomach, that wasn’t all that was being felt.
Felicity couldn’t breathe. She looked into his eyes and could see the same anxiety, the same desire, the same uncertainty she knew he could see in hers. She wanted this to happen so badly, but she was also afraid of it. She finally understood Oliver’s reluctance to make a move. This was damn scary, because everything was about to change and she didn’t know if it was going to be for the better or the worse. She knew there was only one way to find out, though, so she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
But apparently for Oliver, the moment had passed. Once he knew she was steady on her feet he released her and stepped back, inhaling and exhaling slowly before shaking his head sharply. The disappointment was crushing, but sadly, it wasn’t anything Felicity wasn’t used to.
“Race you?” she asked, smiling gamely to cover up her bleeding heart.
Oliver nodded, relieved that she wasn’t going to make the moment more painful than it already was. He cracked a smile to try to put them both more at ease. “First one to the reef and back has to try to get a full conversation out of Anson and Melina.”
Felicity groaned. “I hate you.”
Oliver laughed. “I’ll give you a head start,” he offered magnanimously. Felicity wasted no time and plunged into the water, her arms stroking firmly and surely through the gentle waves. He watched her in admiration for a few moments, then the grin slipped off his face and he dove in after her with a determined glint in his eyes.
They were a little more than halfway back when disaster struck. Oliver had taken the lead just after they both touched off at the reef, and he’d gained momentum as Felicity slipped a little further behind. Then he heard her call his name, sounding a little frantic. He laughingly called out over his shoulder, “Trying to trick me into slowing down?” and kept swimming. When he didn’t hear a reply, he paused long enough to look back. And panicked.
Felicity was nowhere to be seen. He thought he saw a glimmer of her long blonde hair floating on the surface of the water, so he struck out for that point. Diving, his eyes darted around, trying desperately to catch a glimpse of her. He saw her struggling a half-dozen yards in front of him, and he pistoned through the water to reach her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her up with him.
The broke the surface and Felicity gasped for air, half-clutching at his shoulders as she sobbed. Oliver’s arms felt like steel bands around her as he tried to soothe her, his voice broken and full of self-loathing. “You’re okay, Felicity,” he whispered. “You’re okay. I’m sorry. I should have been there.”
She spluttered out a half-laugh, half-cough. “The whole point of racing is to try to beat the other person,” she reminded him. “You weren’t supposed to be right there with me.”
“But when you called out, I shouldn’t have hesitated,” he said quietly, his voice full of remorse. “I thought you were trying to fake me out. I’m sorry. The race shouldn’t have mattered more than checking to make sure you were okay.”
Felicity gave him a crooked smile. “It was a cramp, that’s all. And you were right to think I was trying to fake you out. I was about to, when the real thing hit.”
He choked on the chuckle that wanted to break free. “Are you ready to head back to shore?”
She nodded. “I’m good now.”
He shook his head vehemently. “You’re not swimming back. Hold on to my shoulders, I’ll take my time.”
Felicity rolled her eyes but chose not to fight him. She knew better than to even attempt it when he was in this frame of mind. She slid herself onto his back instead, holding onto his shoulders as he stroked easily through the aqua water.
When they were just a few feet from shore, he put his legs down and swung Felicity from his back into his arms. Lifting her gently, he carried her out of the water and laid her down on his towel. She lay back, her breathing having long since returned to normal, but still a little shaky. Oliver brushed the clinging strands of hair off her face, peering down into her crystalline eyes. “How are you feeling?”
She took a deep breath before nodding her head. “I’m good, honestly. A little shaken up, but no damage done.”
He lay down beside her on the towel, motioning for her to lift her head and shoulders up so he could slip one arm underneath her. She instinctively rolled into him, her head on his shoulder and her warm breath caressing his chest as she snuggled closer. The only sound was their breathing as they both thought about what had almost just happened. “You scared the hell out of me, Felicity,” he admitted quietly after a moment. “Every time you’re in danger, I’m afraid. Afraid of not getting to you in time, of failing you. Of losing you.”
Tears sparkled in Felicity’s eyes and clung to her lashes, but she refused to let them fall. “You think I’m not, every single night?” she returned, her voice just as somber. “You put yourself in life-threatening situations constantly, and I have to stay behind and try not to panic. I can never really breathe until you’re back, safe.”
Oliver slid a finger beneath her chin and tipped her head up, looking down into her eyes tenderly, and a little ruefully. “This is exactly what I was worried would happen,” he said with a sigh. “I should have known it was inevitable.”
She was confused. “What was?”
Oliver’s other hand, the one not currently beneath her body, came up behind her head. Long, strong fingers curled tightly around the back of her neck and pulled her closer to him. “This,” he said simply, and then his lips were melting against hers, soft and hot and silky and sweet all at once.
Felicity gave in instantly. There was no worry, or fear for how they’d deal with this newfound complication, or anxiety about whether she’d measure up. She gave herself over fully to the sensation of Oliver’s lips on hers, and reveled in the pleasure.
Oliver’s kiss was as masterful as she’d imagined it would be. She felt herself gravitating toward him, trying to press her body into his, her arms sliding around his neck and her fingernails digging into his scalp. He deepened the kiss, his tongue crashing against hers; dancing, thrusting, retreating. She felt him against her teeth and tongue, the roof of her mouth, overwhelming her senses and pulling her under his spell as surely as the ocean had pulled her under its waves.
His knee was sliding between hers, nudging her legs apart, and then his hard thigh was pressed firmly against her center. It stoked the fire in her core and she could feel how wet she was growing, how hot she was burning. She ground down against his leg and he chuckled softly into her mouth.
They broke away from each other, taking quick, deep breaths. Oliver was the first to recover. “A little impatient, are we?” he teased, and her eyes darkened.
“At least I’m not the one being a giant tease,” she retorted.
He grinned as he pulled her back into him. She cuddled against him, her minor irritation immediately forgotten. She ducked her head, hiding the beaming smile that was blooming on her face. Oliver chuckled as he felt her lips curving against his skin. “No more teasing,” he promised, his voice deeper than before. “Which means we should probably back away from each other, because sex on the beach isn’t as great as it sounds and I don’t want to have to stop anything.”
Felicity blushed at the implication that they were already that close to sleeping together. Not like it should be a surprise, after the last two nights, her brain chided her.
Fortunately her laptop chose that moment to chime, alerting her to a search result. She scrambled over to her blanket and tapped at the keys quickly, her brows drawing together as she read the article that had popped up. Oliver settled in behind her on the blanket, his fingers absent-mindedly massaging her shoulder as he read over her shoulder. Felicity sighed, disappointed. “I really didn’t want it to be them.”
“We don’t know for sure that it is,” he reminded her pragmatically.
She shook her head. “Come on, Oliver. How likely is it that it’s pure coincidence that biochemical weapons were confiscated in a police raid in their city, the same year that Elliott and Genevieve attended their first retreat here?”
“Not very likely,” he admitted. “But despite the likelihood of it not being a coincidence, they still might not have had anything to do with it themselves. It would be pretty stupid for them to be the couriers for weapons against their own city.”
Felicity frowned. “True,” she conceded. She sighed. “Guess I’ll have to do some deeper digging on these two.” Her phone lit up at that second and she smiled when she saw Barry’s name. “He’s really anxious to see me,” she said with a laugh. “I guess his big news must be really important.”
Oliver scowled. “You’d think he’d get the hint after you didn’t reply last night,” he mumbled, and the look she gave him was sharp enough to draw blood.
“I replied to the last text he sent me,” she said, her voice suspicious. “Unless you know of another one he sent that I never got.”
He winced. Stupid runaway tongue. “He texted while you were getting changed,” he admitted reluctantly. “It wasn’t a big deal, just said he couldn’t wait to see you and hoped you enjoyed the rest of your vacation. I deleted it.”
Her eyes pierced him like lasers and he squirmed under the intensity directed at him. “And just exactly why did you feel the need to delete my text from my friend, on my phone?”
He gave her what he hoped was an appropriately apologetic look. “Heat of the moment jealousy,” he said with a grimace. “I’m sorry.”
She flashed him an irritated scowl as she began to gather up her belongings. “Yeah, me too.” She finished stowing everything in her bag, slipped the cover-up back over her head, and began to walk away.
“Hey, where are you going?” Oliver asked as he jumped to his feet to follow.
Felicity stopped him cold with one warning glare. “Back to the hotel. By myself. I really don’t want to be around you right now.” She kept walking, and Oliver cursed. He wondered if he’d ever be able to stop screwing up with her.
The next morning, Felicity yawned and stretched stiffly as she roused from a restless sleep. Before she even opened her eyes she felt like something was wrong, and that sense that something was missing brought her fully awake. Her eyes popped open and the first thing she saw was Oliver, scrunched up on the couch across from the bed. Guilt assailed her but she stubbornly flopped over in the bed, reminding herself sternly that Oliver had chosen to sleep on the couch. She hadn’t asked, or even hinted, he’d just silently made up the couch after they’d gotten back from what had been a very stilted, painful dinner. At the time she’d been both grateful and disappointed, and a little perturbed that he hadn’t tried harder to talk her out of being mad at him. Not that it would have worked, mind you. But it would have been nice if he’d made an effort.
A soft huff from the end of the bed told her that Oliver was awake. Likely he’d been awake for an hour or better already, waiting for her to wake up. Childishly she pulled the covers over her head, listening as he sighed, rose from the couch, and crossed the room to get in the shower. She stuck her tongue out at him from her hiding place and waited until the sound of the water hit her ears before unearthing herself from the pile of bedding.
This was going to be a difficult day and she needed to prepare herself for it. It was the first outing to Bridgetown and it was very likely that most of the couples would be joining them. She would have to pretend that she was still madly in love with Oliver, and that was going to be harder than ever. Her emotions felt like they were on a Tilt-a-Whirl, spinning and twisting crazily. First, there was that incredible, scorching kiss, the one that nearly set her on fire despite how water-logged she’d been. Then, just a few minutes later, there was the absolute fury that he’d been so presumptuous and felt like he had the right to intervene. The man’s sheer audacity eclipsed anything she’d ever experienced, and that was saying a lot when you considered the types of people she encountered in both her day and night jobs.
Felicity paused in her outraged thoughts and took a deep, calming breath, closing her eyes and counting backward from 3 as was her habit. She firmly decided to put it out of her mind for the time being and concentrate on enjoying the time in Bridgetown. She heard the shower turn off and scrambled to collect everything she needed so she could get ready in time.
She ignored Oliver as he left the bathroom and she swept by him into it, but once the door was shut behind her she couldn’t help but breathe in the steam surrounding her, scented heavily with his cologne. It felt like being wrapped up in his arms, and the balmy air reminded her vividly of their time at the beach the day before. Wincing, she hung up her outfit and jumped into the shower.
Despite her intense aggravation at Oliver’s jack-ass behavior, she couldn’t help but fall into her usual routine. Tilting her head back, Felicity allowed her hands to drift over her body, sliding them over her breasts and stomach, descending quickly to dip her fingers between her thighs. She felt a rush of excitement and nerves, wondering if he had any idea that every morning while he was on the other side of the door she pleasured herself to thoughts of him and what she imagined he would do to her, her fingers slipping and sliding over her own clit, delving deep into her hot core until she bit her lip to keep from crying out as her body was overtaken by delicious tremors of ecstasy. She gasped as her orgasm crashed over her more quickly than she anticipated-apparently, her irritation with him was as much of an aphrodisiac as it was an annoyance. Something to keep in mind in the future. As she hurriedly washed her hair and soaped herself up with her coconut lime body wash, she idly wondered if that kiss would lead to anything more or if Oliver would pull himself back into his armor and strengthen his commitment to not touching her. It was a moot point right now anyway because she was pissed at him and wouldn’t let him touch her even if he wanted to, but maybe, eventually, when she wasn’t mad at him anymore…
Felicity shook her head and turned off the water, reaching out of the shower to the towel rack. She wrapped one towel around her body and another in her hair, turban-style, before climbing out and assessing herself in the mirror. Her skin was taking on a lightly tanned glow, which pleased her. She’d been pale for as long as she could remember, which wasn’t helped by being indoors with Oliver constantly.
She quickly smoothed some de-frizzing serum through her hair and blow-dried it, pulling it back into a sleek ponytail when she was done, before applying a coat of mascara and her favorite fuchsia lipstick. She bit her lip as she slipped into her outfit, a very short black romper with a print consisting of feathery green fern leaves splashed all over it. It was cute, with a scooped neckline and wide tank-top style straps, but the shorts ended barely south of her butt cheeks. It was much shorter than she was accustomed to, but she had to admit it looked sexy in a very adorable way. Shrugging, she slipped on a pair of black and green sandals with gold chains secured around her ankles and left the bathroom.
Oliver nearly swallowed his tongue when she breezed back into the room. She looked all of 18 years old, but in that, “God I’m so glad I can’t get arrested for having sex with you” way. He knew she was mad at him but he hoped it would be short-lived. He’d apologize and admit it was an asshole thing to do, and with any luck she’d give him a stern, warning glare before blessing him with one of her blinding smiles. Considering the sour, pinched look on her face when she caught sight of him, however, he didn’t have any expectation that it would happen before they got back from Bridgetown.
They were supposed to meet everyone down in the lobby at nine am, and it was a few minutes before the specified meeting time. Oliver reached for Felicity’s hand but she marched out the door in front of him, not even bothering to glance at his face. Sighing, he followed her lead and trailed a few steps behind her until they were heading down the stairs. When they reached the bottom, he gripped her shoulder. “Time to put on a smile and pretend you love me,” he said quietly, and she gave him a short, perfunctory nod.
It shouldn’t have amazed him that she could transform from irritable to kittenish in the two seconds it took for him to open the door and lead her into the lobby, but it did. She was snuggled into his side, her arm around his waist and her head on his shoulder, the moment they came to a stop next to Peter and Nadia. Oliver had to bite back a growl when he saw Peter’s eyes immediately drop to the ridiculously short hemline of her romper-and really, what in the hell was she thinking wearing that thing in public?-and a lascivious smile curled his lips. Oliver cleared his throat roughly, and when Peter looked up Oliver gave him a cold smile that showed off a lot of sharp white teeth. Peter had the good grace to look away and Oliver relaxed, glancing down at the blonde cuddling up against him. He could tell by the way she tightened her grip on him that she’d noticed Peter’s leering and appreciated him subtly taking care of the situation.
“So what are you two most looking forward to seeing?” Donovan asked as he came up to them. Ariel was beside him, the ever-present smirk of annoyance marring her otherwise lovely face.
“I can’t wait to go to the Barbados Museum,” Felicity said enthusiastically. “And I want to go to Orchid World, and the Pelican Village, and most of all, I am dying to go to the Cheapside market.”
Oliver laughed at Felicity’s animated voice and her facial expressions as she talked about the various places she’d read up on prior to the flight. He made a note to hand over however much money she needed at the market.
“Oh, you could spend an entire day just at the market,” Genevieve commented as she and Elliott joined them. Her eyes twinkled. “And half of Oliver’s fortune.”
Felicity giggled. “I’ll have to try to rein it in a little,” she said with a happy sigh.
Oliver tightened his arm around her shoulders. ”You can have anything and everything you want,” he assured her. He attempted to convey with his eyes his apologies for the day before, but her eyes went cool and she stiffened up in his arms, and he knew she wasn’t ready to forgive him yet.
“Okay, everyone, time to get going!” Traci called out, having joined them when Oliver and Felicity were preoccupied. “When we stop in Bridgetown you’ll have free reign to go wherever you please and use whatever transportation is necessary, but you’ll need to meet back with us at three pm.”
Oliver and Felicity headed outside to the minivan, which Felicity whispered to Oliver was actually called a route taxi, and they squeezed into it with everyone else. Oliver easily lifted Felicity into his lap to make room for Genevieve and Elliott on the bench seat beside him. She wanted to protest but decided with an inward sigh that it was pointless to fight him and draw attention to herself.
The drive seemed endless, with Oliver’s hand idly skimming back and forth over her hip, but Felicity managed to get through it without screaming from the tension. Elliott and Genevieve were, once again, extremely pleasant company. Felicity couldn’t deny she was disappointed that all arrows were pointing in their direction, because she thought she and Genevieve could easily have a very nice long-distance friendship after the retreat was over, otherwise.
They pulled up to what Felicity recognized as National Heroes Square, right in the city centre, and she could feel the excitement building. There was so much to see and so many historical sites she wanted to go to, and from the pictures she’d seen online, she would be in heaven at the Cheapside market. She instinctively turned to beam at Oliver, and when she saw the hesitant, hopeful half-smile on his face, she remembered she was mad at him. “You brought the credit card with no limit, right?” she joked instead, attempting to cover up her mistake by making it look like she was playing for their audience.
The smile never wavered, but his eyes dimmed. “Of course,” he replied. “I know better than to be unprepared with you.”
It was a sly dig, and Felicity clamped down on her tongue before it said anything her brain hadn’t fully approved. “Then you can learn from your mistakes,” she said, her voice saccharine sweet, and Elliott and Peter both burst into laughter.
As they piled out of the minivan, Oliver turned to Felicity and gave her a casual smile. “Why don’t you and Genevieve go have fun at the market?” he suggested, and Felicity caught his meaning instantly. It was quickly followed by disappointment that they wouldn’t be spending the day together, which was then followed by irritation at herself for being disappointed. She should be glad he was giving her an out, but instead she was frustrated that they wouldn’t have an opportunity to talk about the fight and get over it.
“I think that’s an excellent idea,” she said airily, holding out her hand for his credit card. With an exaggerated wince, Oliver pulled his wallet out and handed it over, amidst laughter from everyone around them.
“We’re going to check out Kensington Oval,” Donovan said, gesturing to Peter and Hunter. “You coming with us, Oliver?”
Oliver nodded and glanced at Felicity. “You going to be okay?” he questioned, and Felicity heard the double meaning behind his words.
Holding back the sigh that desperately wanted to escape, she nodded. “I will be,” she said under her breath, and she could see the relief cross his handsome face before he headed off with the other men.
She was having a wonderful afternoon with Genevieve, and Felicity found herself once again hoping against hope that she and Elliott weren’t the couriers. She was knowledgeable and served as a sort of tour guide for Felicity as they went from one attraction to another. Felicity found that the other woman was able to help keep her mind off the fight with Oliver, at least somewhat.
They were examining the colorful blooms at Orchid World when Genevieve paused and stared at Felicity speculatively while Felicity told a made-up story about a time Oliver bought her orchids. Wishful thinking, she thought ruefully, but she was distracted from her thoughts when Genevieve shook her head.
“You two had a fight, didn’t you?” she asked intuitively.
Felicity blinked. “Is it that obvious?”
Genevieve chuckled. “You’ve been mopey ever since last night. You’ve done a great job with trying to cover it up, but your eyes take on this sadness whenever you mention Oliver’s name. And the lovey-dovey stuff last night and this morning seemed forced, like you’re putting on a front.”
Felicity sighed and nodded. “He deleted a text from a friend of mine while I was in the shower the other night. The text wasn’t any big deal, but the fact that he did it at all infuriates me.”
“Male friend?” Felicity nodded again, and Genevieve shook her head. “Stupid jealousy. He’s a man, it’s going to happen. Especially because you’re so newly married. He’s being territorial, which isn’t uncommon in powerful men who are used to controlling the world and having it at their fingertips. Is he usually like this? Jealous and childish?”
Felicity snorted. “Frequently.” She considered for a moment. “But when it comes down to it, his trust in me is never in question.”
“Then forgive him,” Genevieve suggested gently. “He gave into a moment of stupidity. It’ll happen again, and it will for you, too. Remind him there’s a reason he trusts you, ask him not to give you a reason not to trust him, and move on. Your marriage will be better for it.”
Felicity gave the other woman a grateful smile. “You should be our counselor instead of Raymond.”
Genevieve wrinkled her nose. “At least then you wouldn’t be getting drooled on.”
Felicity laughed, a full belly laugh. “I think Oliver wants to punch him until he swallows all of his teeth.”
“But he’s held back,” Genevieve pointed out. “That just goes to show that he’s able to rein it in when he needs to. He’ll learn, Felicity. Give him time. You two love each other, that’s something everyone here can see, and it’s not just because you’re newlyweds. There’s something between you that people like Hunter and Elise never had, and people like Elliott and myself took a long time to find.”
Felicity bit her lip, wondering what everyone else saw that Oliver couldn’t, or wouldn’t. And if he ever would. She decided to let that thought go and focused on the opportunity. “Tell me about how you and Elliott met.”
Genevieve’s face brightened immediately, and her eyes shone. “We worked for a local news station back home; I worked on the production crew and he was on-air talent. We were both in the studio one day when it started flooding outside, and my car stalled out. He drove me home, but by the time we got there the water was too high for him to safely get home himself. I invited him to sleep in the guest room, but he didn’t quite make it there. We’ve been together ever since.”
Felicity sighed happily. She loved romantic stories, even if she thought there was a good chance this one might not be true. After all, her and Oliver’s romantic story wasn’t exactly true, was it? “When did you know he was the one?”
Genevieve pondered that for a moment. “On our first wedding anniversary,” she finally decided, and Felicity’s eyes popped wide open. “I was happy with him, and his proposal was so romantic that I got swept up in everything. I said yes, we were married, and the next year was both blissfully happy and extremely difficult. I had my doubts that we would stay married. On our first anniversary he was on air, reading some news story about a new baby jaguar being delivered to the zoo, and when he was done he went totally off-script. He started telling our viewing audience how it was our anniversary and how he’d never known how difficult marriage could be, how taxing or draining it was, and how many fights there would be over stupid little things.
The whole time I’m standing there in disbelief, wondering where all this was coming from and why he was telling it to the camera and not to me. Then he turns and looks directly at me, and says, ‘But the most important thing I’ve learned from marriage is that you have to choose every day to love each other, you have to choose to be happy, and to be happy with the person who you’ve chosen to share your life with, and in the end, it’s the best choice you could ever hope to make.’ I was bawling, but he still gestured for me to come over on camera and showed me off to our entire viewership and told them he was happier now than he’d been the day he married me. Then he kissed me in front of everyone.”
By that point Felicity had gotten watery-eyed herself and she had to wipe the escaping tears that slipped from under her eyelashes and trailed down her cheeks. Genevieve laughed and patted her arm. “Elliott isn’t the romantic type, but him saying and doing all of that showed me a new side to him. I learned that even after a year of marriage I didn’t know everything, and there was so much more to learn for both of us. We went home that night and both of us dedicated ourselves to making that choice every day. That’s when we decided to attend these retreats.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a wallet-sized snapshot of the two of them standing in front of the Montefiore Fountain, clearly several years younger than they currently were, wrapped up in each other and beaming lovesick smiles at each other. “This is from the one five years ago. We’re happier now than we were then.”
In that instant, Felicity knew they weren’t the couriers. There was no way that kind of love could be faked, and the snapshot was real, not Photoshopped. The on-air discussion of marriage could easily be found online, and in her mind that was enough to prove they were genuine.
“Now come on. We only have a few hours left and we still haven’t hit the market,” Genevieve reminded her. “Let’s go find something for you to wear tonight that will tell that handsome husband of yours you still love and cherish him, even if he does screw up from time to time.”
“I think that sounds like a fantastic idea,” Felicity agreed, smiling brightly through her tears. “And thank you, Genevieve. I needed to be reminded that this isn’t just about me anymore. Oliver and I are in this together.”
Genevieve smiled. “Absolutely, sweetheart. And from what I’ve seen? You have nothing to worry about. You’ll be in this together for the rest of your lives.”
Felicity allowed Genevieve to lead her to the market, her thoughts turning inward and wondering if she dared believe the other woman’s prediction.
I know I have at least one reader who is from Barbados, so I apologize profusely for any of the details I screwed up, or anything that doesn't make sense! I tried not to get too into logistics so I didn't look too ignorant. LOL
Oliver knew something had happened during the time Felicity had spent with Genevieve, but he had no idea what. All he knew was he was grateful for whatever had happened.
He realized that something was different as soon as he and the other men made it back to the route taxi in the square. Felicity and Genevieve were already there, loaded down with bags, and Felicity had a brilliant grin on her face as she spoke animatedly with the older woman. When she caught sight of him she turned, landing that smile on him and shining even brighter, if it were possible. It took Oliver’s breath away.
When they climbed into the taxi he again pulled her into his lap and to his surprise, she threw her arms around his neck and planted a loud, smacking kiss on his lips. It was relatively chaste, at least compared to their first kiss, but Oliver was fine with that. Even if the kiss was partially for show, he recognized by the look in her eyes that part of her meant it. He was willing to wait until later to figure out what prompted the change in attitude. For the time being, he was perfectly content to slide his arm around her waist and pull her flush to his chest to cuddle against him for the ride back to the hotel.
When they arrived, Traci turned around and got their attention. “The group session will be in the same room it was in your first full day here, at 5:00 pm sharp. Dinner will follow. Please don’t be late!”
Oliver knew exactly what he wanted to do with the time before the session, and he made no apologies as he grabbed Felicity’s hand and pulled her away from the other couples to head upstairs. She giggled at his abruptness but didn’t protest. As soon as the door was shut behind them Oliver pulled Felicity into his arms and she lifted her face, eagerly accepting his kiss. His hands splayed over her hips and he ran his palms down the sides of her thighs, curving them underneath her until he was cupping her ass. The tips of his fingers flirted with the impossibly short hemline of her jumper so that they skimmed the sensitive skin, and she whimpered breathlessly.
“What was that all about?” she asked with a strangled laugh when he finally released her.
“I wasn’t going to take the risk of not getting to kiss you before I piss you off again,” he murmured, his lips brushing over her forehead. “I seem to do that a lot with you lately.”
She sighed as she pulled back in his arms, looking up at him ruefully. “I don’t think it will be the last time one of us pisses the other off,” she pointed out wryly. “I don’t know what’s going on between us Oliver, but we need to work together to figure it out. And unfortunately, right now isn’t the time. We have four days left to figure out who the couriers are and how to stop them, so we kind of have to go on the back-burner for now.”
Oliver acknowledged the truth of her statement with a little regret; he wanted to figure this out and stop playing games. He wanted to be the man she deserved. He also knew that the mission needed their full attention. “So what did you find out from Genevieve today?” he asked, switching subjects abruptly. He watched Felicity purse her lips and realized he needed to work on his transitions from personal to business. He gave her a soft smile that he hoped would ease the sting.
Mollified, Felicity crossed the room to snag her tablet. “It can’t be Genevieve and Elliott,” she said with a decisive tone. “Everything she told me today is verifiable, and the picture she had of her and Elliott was real. Not to say that it couldn’t have been manufactured, but that seems like a waste of time for a non-essential detail when digital photos are so easily created.” She rapidly did a search for the telecast Genevieve had told her about, handing Oliver the tablet after she found it. They watched the scene play out exactly as Genevieve had described it, and both softened as Elliott talked about the difficulties of marriage and the importance of the choices that needed to be made every day.
Oliver glanced over at Felicity as she watched, her eyes shimmering slightly at the devotion in Elliott’s voice and on his face. Oliver reached up, skimming his palm over her cheek and cupping her chin with his fingers. She looked up at him; her eyes were so vividly blue that Oliver found himself drowning in them. Her tablet dropped to the bedspread with a soft plop, and she was curled up in his arms in seconds.
“Not the right time,” she reminded him, her voice muffled against his shoulder.
He chuckled. “It’s always the right time for this,” he said reverently, his lips pressed to the top of her head.
Felicity groaned as she pulled back again. “Stop it,” she scolded him, but her heart wasn’t in it and they both knew it. “We need to decide who gets our attention now that we’ve eliminated Genevieve and Elliott.” She sat down on the bed, picking up her tablet again and scanning her notes and the search results from the day before. “I hate to say it but Anson and Melina are looking to be our best bet. I really don’t want them to be, if only because I loathe the idea of having to talk to them and trying to pry any clues out of their stubborn, recalcitrant mouths.”
Oliver sat down beside her. “I had another thought,” he offered. “We were quick to write off Hunter and Elise, but I was thinking. The couriers don’t necessarily know that anyone is on to them, so keeping under the radar might not be their priority. They might think coming across as irritable spouses who can’t stand each other is the best way to fit in. What if they’re being obnoxious on purpose, with the intent of appearing like they really need to be here to save their marriage?”
She eyed him doubtfully. “You’d think they’d try a little harder to act like the retreat was actually doing them some good, if that were the case,” she pointed out. “But it’s a valid line of thinking.” Her fingers began doing their dance over the screen of her tablet. Her searches on the two had been first-level, considering they’d been bumped low on the priority list right from the start and there were other couples who seemed to be a better fit. Now, though, Felicity was ready to do some deep-diving into their lives.
Oliver watched her as she got lost in her digital world, and he shook his head slightly as a faint grin curved his lips. She was so full of passion, focus, energy, and positivity that was so uniquely her. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to it, or get over how amazing she was and how she made him feel, every day of his life.
He was startled out of his thoughts when she yelled suddenly, jumping up and then immediately sinking back down. Her animated blue eyes locked on his and she grinned widely. “Elise went to college with Vincent Grayling, a formerly spoiled rich kid who’s made a name for himself in drug smuggling the last decade. I don’t think it’s too far of a leap to suggest he’s branched out into biological weapons, do you?”
Oliver smiled menacingly, the expression chillingly lethal. “I think we should pay extra close attention to Hunter and Elise during the group session, and then join them for dinner.”
Felicity glanced over at the clock and jumped off the bed again. “We need to get ready or we’ll be late to the session!” She quickly grabbed a white- and yellow-striped sundress from the closet and flew into the bathroom to get changed.
Oliver exchanged his shorts and polo shirt for a pair of dressy khakis and a dark green button-down and was ready in minutes. When Felicity emerged from the bathroom, his heart leaped into his throat. She was wearing probably the least sexy outfit he’d seen her in thus far on the trip, but she still looked absolutely beautiful. Of course, he couldn’t recall a time when he’d looked at her and didn’t think she was beautiful.
“Ready to go?” She nodded, and they made their way downstairs.
They were the second-to-last couple there; only Peter and Nadia were absent. As everyone settled into their seats, Oliver deliberately led Felicity to the chairs directly across from Hunter and Elise. He wanted to study them to see if he could detect anything that rang false about the personas they were presenting. No sooner had he and Felicity sat down than Peter and Nadia entered, promptly seating themselves on Felicity’s right side. She cast Oliver a disgruntled look and he frowned, cocking his head slightly in question. Do you want to switch seats? She shook her head almost imperceptibly, not willing to draw attention with such a blatant snub.
They waited patiently as Raymond stood up and greeted the group. “How did you enjoy your trip into Bridgetown?”
There was a chorus of positive accolades and he grinned proudly, as if Bridgetown were his sole achievement and he was accepting the praise as his due. “Such a beautiful island we have, isn’t it? Now then, let’s get started. Why don’t you all tell me what you feel you’ve accomplished so far this trip, as it relates to your relationships? Oliver, Felicity? Would you like to go first?”
Oliver scowled at being put in the spotlight, but Felicity had no qualms about plowing ahead. “I really think we’ve learned how to trust each other,” she said cheerfully. “I mean, we already trusted each other with what we thought was the ‘important stuff’, but I think we’d both forgotten we need to trust each other to get through the difficulties together,” she added. “No relationship is perfect, clearly, or we wouldn’t be here. But we forgot that marriage is hard, and we’ll have fights, and there will be times when we want to throw temper tantrums and go to bed angry. What we need to do is trust each other to fight through all the bad stuff so we can get to the part where we’re better again. We need to trust each other to choose us, every day. To choose to deal with all the hard things so we can have the best of each other all the time.”
He saw Elliott smile and glance over at Genevieve lovingly. Genevieve was nodding at Felicity in approval and satisfaction.
“Personally, I believe the most significant thing I’ve learned so far is the importance of quality time,” Donovan interjected, smiling lovingly at Ariel. “I never really realized how much of our time together was me reading some proposal or stock analysis while Ariel watched TV or played on her phone. Just being in the same room isn’t enough.”
“Very good, very good,” Raymond encouraged, looking at the remaining couples to see who might have something to add. He focused in on Anson and Melina. “And what about you two? What have you learned in the past few days?”
Melina glanced over at Anson, who considered the question thoughtfully. “I’ve learned how important it is to communicate,” he answered finally, and Felicity couldn’t help it. She burst out in a snort, which she frantically covered with a choking cough.
Oliver whacked her on the back until she swore her lungs were going to pop out of her chest. She fought to breathe, her eyes watering as she worked through the wheezing until she finally regained control. She glanced around sheepishly at all the concerned, slightly amused faces. “Sorry,” she offered lamely. “I seem to have a habit of doing that.”
Oliver chuckled under his breath and she cast him a withering look that was tinged with self-deprecation. “Don’t ever change,” he murmured quietly, and her skin pinkened under his affectionate gaze.
Unfortunately they weren’t able to glean anything of any use during the remainder of the session. Oliver and Felicity were barely able to conceal their frustration, both feeling like time was slipping away and they weren’t any closer to figuring out who their target was.
As the other guests filed into the dining hall Oliver held back, stopping Felicity before she could follow Elliott and Genevieve in. “I think it’s time we stop relying on computers and face-to-face conversations,” he said softly, and Felicity instantly knew what he meant.
“We can’t start ransacking their rooms!” she hissed quietly, her eyes darting to the other couples, relieved to discover that none of them were close enough to hear their whispered conversation.
“We don’t have a choice!” he argued under his breath. “We’re not finding anything and time is running out. At this rate we’re going to leave here just as clueless as when we arrived.”
She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before sighing, which he took to mean they would be making their way to one of the other rooms shortly. He started to lead her away and back up the stairs when Raymond emerged from his office. “Not going to dinner?”
Oliver gave her a wink, falling into character easily. “We’re not hungry. It’s been a long day and we’d rather just go back to our room.”
Raymond smiled ingratiatingly, giving Oliver a very obvious wink in return. “Enjoy your evening,” he said knowingly, and Oliver had to call on all his patience to not just punch the man.
As Raymond disappeared, Oliver stared after him thoughtfully. “We missed something,” he realized a moment later, wanting to smack himself for not catching it sooner. Felicity gave him a questioning look. “We’ve been so busy looking for the couriers, we didn’t think about their contact here on the island. If one of the couples are the couriers, doesn’t it make sense that their contact works here in the hotel?”
Felicity caught on immediately. “Raymond is certainly shady enough to be a viable suspect,” she acknowledged quickly. She glanced down the hallway to make sure there was no one around, then pivoted and headed back to Raymond’s office. She frowned when she realized the door was locked, but Oliver slipped in behind her and made short work of the lock.
He began digging through the file cabinets while she powered on the laptop and started skimming through Raymond’s documents. She worried her lip between her teeth until she hit on what appeared to be a memo for a meeting.
“K.C., Sunday, 11 pm, eternity pool,” she read out loud, her voice barely above a whisper. “Sounds like he was meeting someone.” Her eyes rapidly skimmed the remainder of the brief details before something clicked. “Wait. This was written a week ago, so the ‘Sunday’ he was referring to was this past Sunday, which was the day we all arrived for the retreat. But none of the guests have the initials K.C.”
“Maybe it’s one of the other members of the hotel staff,” Oliver offered as he came around the desk. He crouched down beside her and she tried valiantly to ignore the heat of his body just inches from hers. “Or maybe it has nothing to do with the guests.”
“Or maybe I’m going to be spending some time tonight electronically dissecting Raymond’s life until I figure out who K.C. is,” she said grimly.
A noise in the hallway startled both of them and Felicity immediately began tapping at the keyboard, erasing any trace of her unauthorized entry. She had just gently closed the lid to the laptop when the light outside the office flipped on. Her eyes locked on Oliver’s, slightly panicked, and he yanked her out of the chair, pressed her back into the desk, and fused his lips with hers just seconds before the door was flung open.
“What are you doing in my office?” Raymond asked indignantly. Oliver and Felicity broke apart, looking properly chagrined at having been “caught”.
Felicity gave him a sheepish grin as she pushed her tumbled hair from her forehead. “We started a little early,” she explained breathily, not having to feign the blush and the heaving of her chest. Brief though it had been, Oliver’s kiss had knocked her on her ass. “We just got ourselves into the nearest room. Sorry about your desk,” she added apologetically, glancing down at the scattered knick-knacks and papers and blushing again.
He frowned at them. “My door was locked,” he said slowly. “You figured out how to unlock the door just because it was the closest one?”
Oliver shook his head. “It wasn’t locked,” he assured the other man. “I just grabbed the handle and it opened right away.”
Raymond was still staring at them suspiciously, but Felicity could see the doubt creeping into his eyes and chimed in with, “You probably just got distracted when you were leaving and you didn’t actually lock it, even though you thought you did. I do that all the time,” she said with a musical giggle. She breathed an imperceptible sigh of relief when Raymond began to visibly relax. “We’re really sorry we came into your office, we just got caught up in the heat of the moment.” She started up at Oliver adoringly. “I’m sure that’s happened to you at least once or twice, right?”
He chuckled a little and Felicity and Oliver both sagged into each other as the tension eased. “More than once or twice,” he agreed, his eyes smoldering a little as they landed on Felicity. “But now it’s time for you to go back to your own room if you want to continue from where you left off.”
Felicity grabbed Oliver’s hand and tugged him along, smiling sweetly at Raymond. “We’ll just pretend this never happened.” She gave him a little wave as she and Oliver exited into the hallway and made a beeline for their room.
Once they’d closed the door behind them, Felicity exhaled loudly. “Oh my God, I thought he was going to have us kicked out right there on the spot!” she exclaimed.
Oliver ran a hand through his hair. “It’s not even close to the toughest spot I’ve been in, but I was pretty tense for a minute,” he admitted. He sank down onto the bed and patted the space beside him. “Now what do you want to do?”
If he was expecting Felicity to follow Raymond’s suggestion and pick up where they’d left off, he was sorely disappointed. “Now,” Felicity said, her eyes gleaming like a cat’s focused in on its prey, “I find out who K.C. is.”
When Oliver woke up the next morning he had to quickly smother a laugh as he caught sight of Felicity, her tablet clutched to her chest, her glasses still on her face but knocked askew, and her remaining hand resting on the keyboard of the laptop that was perched on the bedside table. She’d still been intent on her search when he’d drifted off to sleep the night before, and apparently she’d just kept at it until sleep won the battle they’d waged. He debated waking her up, but then he decided to let her sleep as long as she could. It was the only day they didn’t have something scheduled out for them, and he didn’t see any reason to disturb her.
Carefully, he slipped her glasses off her face and reached over her to place them on the table beside the laptop. As he settled back onto his side of the bed Felicity grunted in her sleep and rolled over, flinging her arm across his chest. He smiled as she snuggled into his side, tucking her head beneath his chin and mumbling his name.
His generous intentions were thwarted a mere second later when the laptop let out a loud chime, signaling a search had come to fruition. Felicity bolted up in bed, clipping him on the chin and causing him to bite down hard on his tongue. He swore as blood filled his mouth and she looked mortified.
“Oh God, Oliver, I’m so sorry!” she bleated, grabbing for the box of tissues on the side of the bed. She held them up to his mouth and he spit, neither of them flinching as the snowy white tissue turned red. “I didn’t realize you were there, I mean I was asleep and didn’t realize anything except the noise meant my search results were in and oh my God, the search results are in!” She cut off her own babbling a split-second before Oliver could open his mouth and interrupt her on his own.
He grinned at her despite the pain in his tongue, watching as she twisted abruptly away from him to jam her glasses on her face and grab the laptop that was still perched precariously on the bed stand. She pulled it into her lap and nibbled at her lower lip while her eyes rapidly consumed the data displayed on the screen. “Raymond went to college with a woman named Kody Carron. They met their sophomore year in Advanced Chem and their schedules pretty much matched exactly for their remaining two years at… Wait.” She frowned, and Oliver tensed. “They went to MIT, both were class of 2006. How is it possible that we were there at the same time and I don’t recognize either of their names or faces? Although actually, Kody does look kind of familiar to me.”
She tilted her head slightly to the side, narrowing her eyes as she studied the picture of the bland brunette staring out at her. Oliver moved closer to her and leaned in to examine the picture as well. His lips skimmed her shoulder and then her cheek, not at all by accident. His lips curved upward as Felicity shivered. “Stop it. You’re distracting me.”
“Maybe I meant to,” he murmured, his teeth closing around her earlobe and tugging gently. She moaned and leaned toward him slightly. “After all, my hopes for last night did not include watching you duel with your laptop until I fell asleep.”
“We have plenty of time for that,” she said faintly, engrossed in the feel of his beard scraping across the skin of her upper arm as he trailed kisses down it. “But the clock is ticking on our mission. Following up on a lead is more important than sex. Even sex with you, and oh my God I can’t believe I’m saying that, especially not with that thing you’re doing right now because how in the world could I possibly think that thing isn’t more important and oh my God, Oliver, stop! You have to stop or I’ll be, I mean we’ll be too distracted to figure out what this new information means!”
Oliver pulled back, a petulant scowl on his face. “You’re right,” he conceded reluctantly, his tone slightly growly.
Felicity giggled at his sullen demeanor before refocusing her attention on the computer. “Neither Kody nor Raymond had grades that set them apart from the rest of the pack, they didn’t win any awards or honors, which explains why their names didn’t pop for me. I started at MIT the same year they graduated and I wasn’t in any of their classes because I was taking freshman- and sophomore-level classes while they were seniors, not to mention their degrees were in Chemical-Biological Engineering and mine is in Computer Science and Engineering so we weren’t exactly on the same track anyway-.”
“Felicity.” She stopped, looking at him questioningly. “I don’t blame you for not recognizing Raymond. You don’t have to justify it to me.”
She took a deep breath, nodding. “I think it’s pretty clear now that Raymond is part of this. The CB Engineering degree is too much of a coincidence, especially since he’s claiming to be a therapist. Speaking of which, that Psych doctorate from UC-Berkeley is obviously a fake.” She frowned as she tried to concentrate on the pieces of the puzzle that were flying in her head and refusing to fit together. “So who is this Kody person, and what does she have to do with the weapons? She was obviously here on Sunday. Is she still here? Is she lurking somewhere around the Tipton, or is she just here on the island?”
A knock on the door interrupted Felicity’s musings. Oliver reached out and slammed the laptop shut with a sharp click, and she shot him an outraged glare. “Oliver Jonas Queen! You do not treat valuable computer equipment so disrespectfully!” The knock sounded again and Oliver chuckled as Felicity stomped over to the door, flung it open, and barked a very irritated, “What?!” at a startled bellhop.
“I have a message to deliver to you,” the bellhop explained quickly, thrusting an envelope toward her made out of heavy, cream-colored stock with the names “Oliver and Felicity Queen” embossed in gold on the front. Felicity accepted it with a perplexed expression and the bellhop darted away, anxious to get out of her line of sight.
She carried the envelope back to the bed and handed it to Oliver, who examined it thoroughly before determining there was no threat. He opened the envelope and removed an invitation printed on the same heavy stock. In fancy gold script were the words, “You’ve been invited to a day of romantic indulgence. Be in the lobby at 10:00 am for a horse-drawn carriage ride, followed by a couple’s spa afternoon complete with a sensual massage. Dinner will be served al fresco at 6:00 pm on a private terrace.”
Oliver could see the hopefulness in Felicity’s eyes swell and then immediately dim. “We don’t have a whole day to spare,” she said reluctantly, skimming her fingers over the satiny gold lettering wistfully. “We have to figure out who Kody is and what she has to do with the couriers.”
He leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers briefly. “We’ll talk more about that over dinner. Today, we’re going to enjoy ourselves and not waste this opportunity.” He pulled her off the bed and tugged her toward the closet. She gave him an amused half-smile as he rifled through the clothing hanging there and pulled out a coral-colored dress and handed it to her. “Here. This is perfect. Go shower and get dressed and stop thinking about the couriers for a few hours. We will figure this out in time, Felicity. I promise you.”
She beamed at him and threw her arms around his neck, and he took advantage of the opportunity to slide his hands down and cup her ass, fitting her tightly against him. “Have I mentioned what an amazing boss you are?” she said jokingly, her words muffled against his skin.
Oliver grimaced. “Please don’t call me your boss when I’m touching you like this,” he grumbled. “It makes me feel like a total cliché.”
Felicity released him and stepped back, grinning impishly. “I kind of like it,” she said, a teasing lilt in her voice. “The wicked CEO who makes his EA stay late for all sorts of shameless reasons.” Oliver’s eyes darkened to a midnight shade and hers widened as she realized she was about to push him too far. “And now it’s time for me to get in the shower.” She winced. “Not like that. Not because I need a cold one or anything, although actually, I really kind of do, but because I need to shower before we leave and you already told me to, and-.”
“Felicity.” His voice was patience laced with amusement. “Go get in the shower.” She immediately disappeared into the bathroom, flinging his T-shirt out a moment later and allowing him a brief glimpse of her naked back before she shut the door firmly.
Oliver stripped off his sweatpants, leaving him in only his underwear, and waited for a few minutes after the water finally shut off to open the bathroom door. Felicity was standing in front of the sink, a towel wrapped around her body while she brushed out her hair. Her eyes caught his in the mirror and he thought she might have flushed, but he conceded it might have been the steam in the air, too. He walked nonchalantly to the shower, grabbing a towel and throwing it on the hook beside the bathtub, acting as if this was a normal part of their daily routine. He didn’t have to look at her to know she was watching his reflection in the mirror as he peeled off his briefs and stepped behind the curtain.
It was dangerous, but knowing she was a mere few feet away with only a single sheet of fabric between them heightened his need for his usual morning personal time. Wondering if he hoped she didn’t hear him, or that she did and decided to join him, Oliver quickly took himself in hand. His strokes were firm and it didn’t take more than a couple minutes before his cock began jetting out his release, instantly swirling into the stream from the shower head and washing down the drain. He let out a quiet groan as the last of the aftershocks trembled through him. Oliver thought he heard Felicity go still, but he couldn’t be sure over the sound of the water.
By the time he was done showering, Felicity had exited the bathroom. He quelled his disappointment by reminding himself that today was going to be a day for just the two of them and they would have more opportunities by the end of it. Toweling off briskly, he dressed in a simple pair of black board shorts and a T-shirt with vertical black and blue stripes, and rejoined her in the bedroom.
His temperature shot up at the first glimpse of her wearing the breezy, romantic dress he’d selected. Each shoulder had three spaghetti straps that crossed over it and twisted together in a knot in the back, then fanned out over the golden skin that was accentuated by the deep coral color. The skirt was long in the back, brushing her calves, and short in the front, hitting several inches above her knees, and the top was a very low scoop neck with a sheer piece of ombre fabric gathered loosely over a generous display of cleavage. It was floaty and feminine and tantalizing, and he wanted to admire it for another five seconds before ripping it off of her.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked brightly, and he lifted his gaze to see her grinning happily at him. He tamped down his desire and offered her his arm and a warm smile. She wrapped her hand over his bicep and curled against him, and it struck him that they no longer needed to playact for the others. Their feelings for each other were genuine and now, they were out in the open. They didn’t have to wait until they were around other people to touch each other affectionately.
Oliver led Felicity down to the lobby, where they were greeted by a liveried coachman. He guided them outside to a beautiful, sleek black carriage which was ornately carved and accented with antique bronze trimming. A team of four dappled grays were hitched to it and they pranced in place, tossing their heads and shaking their long manes. Oliver cast his gaze down at Felicity and his heart beat faster at the joy shining in her eyes. She glanced up at him and the joy deepened, and in that instant Oliver couldn’t have loved her more. The world shrank to occupy only the space she did; she might as well have been the only person alive, because she was the only person who could possibly matter to him.
He helped her into the carriage and then settled into the seat beside her. She immediately cuddled into his side and laid her head on his shoulder, while he wrapped his arm around her, inhaling the scent of her hair. They were comfortable in their silence as the driver snapped the reins and the grays surged forward smoothly, drawing them toward a cobblestone path behind the Tipton.
Neither spoke for the first several minutes; both were content to enjoy the feel of being wrapped up in each other without it being a charade for the benefit of others. Finally, Oliver reluctantly spoke up.
“I’m sorry about deleting Barry’s text,” he began, and Felicity shook her head.
“I know, Oliver,” she interrupted gently. “I’m not saying it was okay, but I understand why you did it and I know you feel badly about it. I overreacted a little, too, if I’m honest.”
He felt even guiltier that she was so quick to let him off the hook. “I promise not to do anything like it again.”
She snorted indelicately. “Come on, Oliver, we both know better,” she said bluntly. “You overreact when you get emotionally involved. I’ve seen your jealousy come out to play and that was before you confirmed you have feelings for me.”
Oliver mentally acknowledged the truth of her statement. “Then I promise to try to calm down after I overreact, before I do something stupid.”
Felicity pulled away from him and tilted her head back, beaming up at him. “I’ll take it.” They both fell silent again, but this time it was her turn to speak up first. “You realize we’re talking like we’re a couple,” she pointed out. “And yet, to my recollection there’s been no such discussion about our future.”
He debated on how best to respond to her, and the silence stretched on to the point of awkwardness and discomfort. She winced and opened her mouth, but he cut her off before she could launch into what he was sure would be a memorable ramble. “I think I always felt that this was the inevitable conclusion,” he said honestly. “We don’t need to go on dates to get to know each other. We don’t need to build a relationship from scratch. We’re already there. The only thing we needed to do was acknowledge and be ready to accept it.”
Felicity stared at him. “I think that’s the most you’ve ever said at one time about relationships,” she said finally, a slight smile curling her lips. “But you’re right. It was always there between the two of us. Someone just needed to pull his head out of his ass,” she added impishly, her eyes twinkling.
Oliver groaned and slid his arm around her again, absent-mindedly cupping her elbow. “Okay, okay. It’s all my fault. I was wrong to try to deny my feelings for you.”
“And what feelings might those be?” she countered, raising one eyebrow.
He growled and she winked up at him. He gripped her chin lightly with strong fingers and tipped her face up to his. “I love you, Felicity Meghan Smoak,” he said quietly. “I meant it when I said it for Slade’s benefit two months ago, and I mean it even more now.”
Tears filled her eyes at the passion in his voice. “I wanted to believe that you meant it,” she responded in the same low tone. “But then afterward it was like it never happened.”
He sighed. “My opinion on the danger you’ll be in as my girlfriend hasn’t changed at all. After the issues with Slade, I was too afraid to put you in that position again.” He hesitated. “I still have dreams about the blade of his sword pressed against your neck. It would have taken half a second for him to have sliced right through you, and I see it in my nightmares more often than I’m comfortable with. Not that I’d ever be comfortable with it, but you know what I mean.”
Felicity’s face was uncharacteristically somber. “I understand,” she said softly. “You know, though, that I’ll always be in danger as long as we work together, right? Whether we’re together romantically or not?”
He nodded, rubbing a hand over his face tiredly. “That’s the only thing that finally allowed me to give in to this,” he admitted. “I’d rather have you with me, where I have a better chance of protecting you against any threats, than to not have you at all.”
She frowned a little. “I don’t like the implication that I need your protection at all times, but I’ll let it slide. For now,” she added, making it clear that it wasn’t a carte blanche pass for him to play the caveman role.
Oliver lifted her hand to his lips and ghosted them over her knuckles, a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth. “I’ll take it,” he said, echoing her earlier words. Her answering smile blinded him with its brilliance and he pulled her into his lap, not satisfied with her merely sitting next to him.
Felicity looped her arms around his neck and slid her lips along his, reveling in the fact that she had the freedom to openly express her love for this man. His arms banded around her and crushed her to his chest, and she could feel him harden underneath her as she wiggled in his lap and deepened their already passionate kiss.
“Easy, tiger,” she whispered teasingly against his lips after they broke apart. “We have a full day ahead of us, and I don’t think we’re going to have an opportunity to indulge either of our fantasies for quite awhile. But after dinner…” She let her words trail off enticingly, and his eyes darkened noticeably at the sultriness in her voice and gaze. “After dinner we’re going back to our room, locking the door, and ignoring anything short of the Tipton burning down.”
Oliver inhaled sharply at the promise in her eyes. “After I get my hands on you? It just might.”
For Felicity, it felt like only moments had passed from the time she and Oliver were swept away on a romantic carriage ride, to the time she was laying face down on a table with a small towel draped over her ass. A gorgeous masseuse’s hands rhythmically migrated from her shoulders down her back, to her thighs and calves, working the kinks out of her muscles. She had to bite back a moan that would sound distinctly sexual, because Oliver lay on the table next to her and she didn’t want to cause him to embarrass himself in front of strangers.
She turned her head to look over at him and blushed slightly when she saw that his intense gaze was already focused on her. The blue steel of his eyes bored into her and her mouth went a little dry. She could see the fire lighting in them and the feel of hands on her body, imagining his hands on her, caused her to grow very warm and pleasurably uncomfortable. She watched, her momentary embarrassment fading and her desire growing, as Oliver’s eyes swept down her nearly-naked form and then back up to meet her bold stare. His unwavering gaze became almost challenging, daring her to look away. She didn’t.
The masseuse’s hands began working their way back up her calves to her inner thighs. Felicity fervently hoped his fingers didn’t wander too much higher, because otherwise he was just going to be the first guy of the day to feel how wet she was. The expression on her face must have given her thoughts away, she realized, when Oliver’s lips curved up in a very self-satisfied smirk.
She marveled at the way they were able to read each other so well without saying a word. It wasn’t something new, but being able to take it to this level was something she’d never expected would happen and she fully intended to maximize her enjoyment of the situation. She briefly closed her eyes and lightly bit her lip, sinking her white teeth into the plump, cherry-red skin. When she reopened her eyes, deliberately doing it slowly so her lashes would sweep dramatically over her cheek, she could see how close Oliver was to losing control. His desire shone naked on his face and his eyes had darkened considerably. Felicity figured she better slow down or Oliver might just knock the two spa employees unconscious so he could bend her over the table right there amidst the hot towels and aromatherapy jars.
When both masseuses silently left the room, Oliver released a pent-up breath. “Let’s go back to our room. Now.”
Felicity laughed. “Not so fast. I have every intention of enjoying every minute of being pampered today. Besides, I kind of like how the anticipation is building,” she added, her eyes gleaming.
He slid off the table and approached her like a jungle cat, and she swore her heart was going to beat her to death from the inside out. The towel fell to the floor and she was given an unhindered view of his gorgeous body from the top of his head to the tip of his toes… and every inch in between. Of which there were many.
He was gloriously masculine, his muscles large and defined, his skin hair-roughened and marked with the remnants of his torture. As her eyes drifted lower, magnetically drawn to the one part of him she’d never seen, she swallowed thickly. He was huge, and impossibly hard. He stood at full attention and she wanted nothing more than to spread her legs and welcome him in.
But not just yet.
He pulled her into a sitting position and stepped between her knees, pressing himself against her and making her gasp as the head of his cock slid through her wetness. He dipped his head, brushing his lips over the tip of one nipple and then the other. They tightened instantly and the pleasure and desire became nearly overwhelming.
“I think it’s time for our mud baths,” she objected faintly, and he growled.
“Fuck the mud baths,” he rasped, his lips opening to tug one of her nipples between his teeth. He nipped lightly at it and her arousal grew immeasurably.
“Do you really want to do this right here?” she protested. “They could come back any minute.”
“I could come any minute,” he grumbled, reluctantly stepping back. “But while I don’t care if they see me making love to the most amazing, beautiful woman I’ve ever known, I also don’t want to rush this for you. I want to give you every moment of worship and devotion you deserve, and I want this to be worth every minute we’ve spent apart.”
Tears sprang to her eyes and she wiped at them hastily, not wanting him to think of her as being too emotional. Instead, he lifted one hand to her cheek and stroked his thumb over it gently. “Don’t ever be ashamed with me,” he said quietly. “I love you, Felicity. I love every part of you.”
“I love you too, Oliver,” she said softly, turning her face slightly to press a kiss into his palm. “I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you bleeding out in the back of my car, I think. I’ve loved you more every minute since, and I fully intend to show you just how much. Later. For now, we have mud baths to get to.” Breathing out shakily, she reached for their robes and handed one to him before sliding off the table and donning the other herself. Wrapping the belt tightly around her waist, she gestured for him to follow her to the next stage of their pampering.
Later that evening, after an emotionally and physically charged day, Oliver and Felicity were sharing an intimate dinner on a terrace overlooking the eternity pool with the waterfall on one side of it. There were soft lights surrounding the pool and the moon gleamed brightly, providing enough romantic illumination to dine by.
Felicity was so tense she was ready to scream, and she knew Oliver’s patience was holding on by a slender, worn thread. They had long since passed the teasing, heightened awareness stage and both were simply waiting for the charade of the evening to be over so they could indulge themselves in every pleasure that had been so long denied.
To keep her mind off how badly she wanted him and how devastatingly sexy he looked in his suit, Felicity brought up their mission. “I have to admit I’m at a loss,” she said unhappily. “I haven’t come across anything else suspicious on any of the couples. They all have seemingly legitimate marital histories and I can’t find any crack in the armor that indicates a forged background together. I can’t find one single shred of evidence that one of these couples isn’t actually married.” She blew out a breath of frustration. “Is it possible that the organization sent two people who are truly husband and wife?”
Oliver shook his head. “My informant swore that the pair weren’t married.”
She sank back into her chair and chewed on her lip in consternation. “What are we going to do, Oliver?” We only have three more days and then we have to fly back to Starling City. If we go back without any information as the identity of the organization, we may not be able to find out who they are until it’s too late.”
He reached out and took her hand, lifting it to his lips and skimming them lightly over her knuckles. “We’ll figure it out, Felicity,” he reassured her. “We always do. We’ll find something, some kind of clue, and the pieces will start to fall into place. We’ll keep an eye out for secret meetings, suspicious movements, anything that seems out of the ordinary. We won’t fail.”
She closed her eyes, sighed, and nodded. “I know. I’m just not used to coming up against this kind of brick wall. It’s irritating and insulting.”
“Let’s look at what we know,” he said practically. “We know it’s not Elliott and Genevieve. It’s almost as unlikely that it’s Hunter and Elise. I don’t believe Donovan has the capability. So we’re left with Melina and Anson, and Peter and Nadia.”
“I just can’t see it with Nadia,” Felicity replied emphatically. “She has the personality and the intelligence of a carrot.”
Oliver choked on his laughter, and she gave him a small grin while she popped another olive in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. “Melina and Anson are honestly the only pair I can see having anything to do with this, but for some reason I can’t wrap my brain around it.”
He nodded. “I feel the same way. So starting tomorrow, we shadow them. Neither one goes anywhere without us knowing about it, and I’ll search their room during their private counseling session tomorrow afternoon.”
“And I’ll go through the security footage to see if I can find anything to give us a clue,” Felicity added.
“Now that we have a plan, can we finish our dinner and get the hell out of here?” Oliver asked, his voice low and deep. The hungry way he was staring at her plucked her nerves like she was a violin, and she nodded eagerly. They quickly consumed the remainder of their meal, both of them barely tasting the delectable cuisine because they were too busy feasting their eyes on the other.
When Felicity laid her fork down after taking her last bite, however, Oliver suddenly changed his mind. Giving her an enigmatic grin, he took her hand and led her down the circular staircase to the pool below. Raising one eyebrow as a challenge, he stripped off his clothes and dove in.
“Oliver!” she hissed once he resurfaced. “Anyone could come out here!”
He shook his head and gestured for her to follow him in. “We were promised privacy here tonight. No one will be disturbing us.”
Looking around, Felicity acknowledged there was no one around and hadn’t been since their dinner began. Exhilaration coursed through her as she quickly shed her silver sheath and gingerly walked down the steps to join Oliver. The moonlight bathed her body in an ethereal glow, highlighting all the curves and creating shadows in the delta of her thighs. She looked as pure as an angel, but right now, she definitely had the thoughts of a sinner.
He stole the breath from her lungs when he trapped her between the side of the pool and his hard body. He was pressed fully against her, every inch of her body touching part of his. The hair across his chest lightly abraded her nipples and his hand stole to her waist, cupping her and pulling her tighter against his erection. He rubbed himself between her thighs and she bit her lip to keep from crying out. “Hold it in now, but I’m going to make you scream when we get back to our room,” he breathed into her ear, and she whimpered.
Oliver lifted one leg, nudging his knee to Felicity’s core and bracing it on the wall behind her. He settled her firmly onto his thigh and she rocked against it, her clit swelling and growing more sensitive with every stroke. She bit her lip and moaned as his hand slipped below the water and began to firmly caress the little bundle of nerves. She looped her arms around his neck and pressed her breasts to his chest, rubbing them over the light dusting of hair with a wicked grin, and it was Oliver’s turn to groan.
“I’m going to fuck you right here in this pool if you don’t stop that,” he gritted out.
She smiled coyly. “Maybe that’s what I want you to do,” she teased.
“That’s it,” he swore, and she squeaked when he lifted her in his arms and waded to the shallow end of the pool. He set her down gently and when she stood up, the water came to her knees. Oliver dropped to his and her eyes widened when he growled up at her, “Hold on tight.”
Her hands flew to his shoulders just as his tongue delved between her lips, seeking out her clit and hitting jackpot. She cried out as he feasted on her, the tip of his tongue flickering rapidly against her and then abruptly alternating to a long, slow lick, his tongue flattening over her clit and stroking thoroughly, before going back to the fluttery motion. Felicity was soaking wet and it had nothing to do with being in a pool.
She had been so keyed up all day that it took very little time to bring her close to the edge. “Oh God, Oliver, please, please,” she keened, her fingers digging into his shoulders as her legs began trembling. She didn’t even know what she was begging for, just that the pleasure was so intense that she felt like she was going to explode into flames despite being surrounded by water.
“Tell me what you want, Felicity,” he commanded, and she shook her head, unable to speak. “Tell me what you want me to do to you,” he repeated, his voice low, and she gasped.
“I want you to make me come!” she cried out, and he immediately speared three fingers into her and began pumping them against her as fast as he could. Her cries increased in volume as the pleasure rose and began filling her to the point of overflowing. She thrust down on him while he wrapped his lips around her clit and sucked hard, and just when she swore her heart was going to burst, he crooked his fingers inside her and brushed them against her inner walls.
Felicity wailed as her orgasm tore through her like a tidal wave, crashing over her and consuming her. She bucked against Oliver’s mouth and he milked every last drop of her juices as they flowed onto his tongue. Her legs were shaking so hard she couldn’t stand, so he rose and cradled her against his chest.
“We belong to each other,” Oliver whispered into her ear as he lifted her up and wrapped her legs around his waist. “Forever after this night, you’re mine and I’m yours. I love you, Felicity, with everything in me. I will never want anyone else but you.”
Felicity was still dizzy from the aftereffects of the intoxicating orgasm. It had been so long since she’d experienced one, at least from something besides her own fingers, that she had forgotten how powerful they could be. And she’d never experienced one as explosive as the one Oliver had just given her. “We belong to each other,” she agreed, emotion clogging her throat. “Now can we please go back to our room? I want you inside me.”
Oliver groaned. “You little temptress,” he teased. “There’s going to be no satisfying you, is there?”
“Never,” she returned instantly. “I will never tire of you, Oliver. I will never stop needing you.”
His lips slid over hers, stealing her breath as he held her as closely as possible. His tongue caressed hers and she could taste herself on him, and she hungered for more. She clung to him as he carried her up the steps and out of the pool. He spared only the briefest of moments to collect their clothing and grab two robes from the nearby cabana, wrapping them both up snugly for the trip back to their room.
They tiptoed through the lobby, trying not to bring attention to themselves. They didn’t run into anyone and Oliver was relieved when he could shut the door behind them. He wasted no time in pushing the robe from Felicity’s shoulders, his gaze roaming her silky body like a starving man at a feast for a king.
“You are perfect,” he rasped, “and I don’t deserve you. I never have and I never will. But I don’t care. I’m never going to let you go.”
Felicity basked in the affection and the tender words flowing from his lips. This was a whole new Oliver. It had taken far too long for him to come to this place of honesty, but it seemed now that he was here, he was prepared to stay. She reached up on tiptoe to wrap her arms around his neck. “I want you, now,” she whispered, her voice silky and holding promises of pleasure he’d only ever imagined in his wildest dreams. “Prove to me how much you love me, and I’ll prove my love for you in return.”
Oliver’s eyes blazed as he lifted her, carrying her to their bed-finally, truly, their bed-and laid her down gently, as if she was a precious gem. “Remember you asked for this,” he whispered, and before she could breathe a word, he was showing her exactly how talented he was at worshiping at the altar of her body.
Felicity didn’t know if she believed in hell, but after tonight there was no doubt in her mind that heaven was real. All she needed was to be in Oliver’s arms, and she’d find it every time.
Oliver knelt at Felicity’s feet, cradling her foot in his palms and pressing his thumbs to her left arch. He rubbed the spot firmly, stroking his thumbs almost from her heel up to the ball of her foot. She groaned as he moved his attention to her toes, focusing on each individually and then stroking his fingers unhurriedly between them. It was somehow just as erotic as when he’d had his face between her thighs, and Felicity felt the moisture building within her once more. It grew as he continued his ministrations on her right foot, massaging and stroking leisurely as she whimpered in pleasure and desire.
Felicity sighed softly when Oliver began moving up her legs, his fingers biting into the soft skin of her calves, working on the muscles thoroughly as he continued to move upward excruciatingly slowly. She gasped as he reached her inner thighs, replacing his hands with his tongue and teeth. He nipped at the tender skin that was mere inches from her entrance and she thrust her hips up, trying to draw his attention to where she desperately wanted him to be.
He took pity on her and let the tip of his tongue glide along her slit, drawing the moisture from her core upward until the skin was pink and glistening. Felicity arched her back in an attempt to get closer to his suddenly coy, gentle touches. “Where’s the man who was so possessive and demanding?” she mock-complained as he drew back.
“He already made you come once,” Oliver returned teasingly. One of his fingers slipped inside her, stroking her inner walls while his thumb traced lazy circles on her clit. “Now it’s his turn to get to enjoy you.” He lowered his mouth back down and replaced his thumb with his tongue, using it to draw designs on her clit while he continued to thrust his finger, now joined by a second, into her. He felt the slipperiness of her arousal coating his fingers and his cock hardened in anticipation, but he wanted to draw every drop of pleasure from her that he could.
“Please, I need you inside me,” Felicity begged breathlessly, and Oliver shook his head slightly, never losing contact with her clit. She couldn’t really complain because she was sure he’d drive her to another mind-blowing orgasm within another minute if he didn’t stop what he was doing, and she didn’t really want him to stop.
Oliver smiled against her skin, turning his face enough to press butterfly kisses to her inner thigh. He moved up a little higher, gripping her tiny waist in his strong hands and flipping her unexpectedly. She squeaked in surprise and before she even knew what was happening, Oliver had settled back underneath her and was positioning her thighs on either side of his head. She arched back as his tongue resumed worshipping her clit, slipping down to thrust into her once or twice before continuing to flicker over the sensitized bundle of nerves.
Felicity bit her lip to keep from crying out as the pleasure coursed through her, building exponentially until she swore she was about to burst. Oliver’s fingers dug into her thighs as a gentle reminder not to hold back, and as the sensations began to splinter through her, she let out a sharp cry of ecstasy. Oliver’s tongue stroked her thoroughly as she climaxed, drawing every bit of her arousal from her body while she continued to tremble from the intense aftershocks.
She was feeling a bit light-headed after two incredible orgasms but she was anxious to return the favor. She’d fantasized about being on her knees before him many times, although she’d never believed it was something she’d really get the chance to do unless they were both beyond drunk. Grinning wickedly, she rose up enough to swing one leg over his chest and swivel her body, placing her in the perfect position to have access to his cock. It was standing straight up and amazingly, she felt herself grow wet again at the knowledge that he would soon be sheathed tightly inside her.
Oliver hissed out a pained breath when Felicity’s full, silky lips closed around his cock and slid downward in one movement. She wasn’t about to tease him the way he’d teased her; she wanted to taste him, and she wanted to please him. He tilted his hips up to meet her mouth as it continued to stroke down, her wet heat enveloping him and sucking him in. “Oh my God,” he gasped as she took him in further, a little more each time until he felt his head bumping the back of her throat. His fingers wrapped in the blanket and clenched tightly as he restrained himself from thrusting forward and fucking her mouth.
Felicity changed it up a moment later, letting his cock escape from between her lips with a wet popping sound. She scooted around and dropped her head, trailing her tongue over the thin skin separating his testicles. Her delicate fingers wrapped around his cock and continued to stroke firmly before she drew one of his testicles onto her tongue and carefully into her mouth. She sucked lightly on him, rolling it around in her mouth gently before moving on to the next and repeating her actions. After a moment she took his cock back into her mouth, bracing her hands on his thighs while she bobbed her head up and down on him. She started going faster and faster until the pleasure nearly overwhelmed him.
Oliver knew he was about to pump his release down her throat so he choked out a strangled, “Felicity, stop,” before she could bring him to climax. She pulled back with a quizzical look on her face and he smiled slightly. “I don’t want to blow before I get a chance to bury myself inside you,” he explained, watching her face. He loved that the expected blush didn’t appear. She wasn’t embarrassed or shy or hesitant anymore. She was his, and they both knew it.
“Come here,” he whispered, and she obeyed without question. She slipped her hand into his and he tugged her to him, gripping her thigh and lifting it, pulling it over his waist and settling her into place. The tip of his cock pressed lightly against her entrance but she didn’t sink down, allowing Oliver to rub it through her wetness, coating himself in her juices. He placed his hands on her hips and watched her eyes as he gently pulled her down, his hips rising simultaneously until he was sheathed deep in her body.
Tears came to Felicity’s eyes and she closed them for just a moment, feeling full both physically and emotionally. When she reopened hers, the look in his would have brought her to her knees if she wasn’t already on them. He was watching her so tenderly and so lovingly that she almost felt as if she were trapped in a fantasy in her head; it felt like it couldn’t possibly be real. She couldn’t be here with Oliver, the man she’d loved for so long, making love to him and knowing it was only the first time of what would be very, very many.
Oliver saw the emotions play across Felicity’s face; the uncertainty, the amazement, the joy, the bliss. He knew what she was feeling because the same thoughts were racing through his mind as he struggled to keep still. He wanted to get himself under control before she started moving against him, otherwise their first time would be over in a flash.
Felicity’s hands slid to his shoulders as she leaned forward, her breasts pressed against his chest, her lips crushed against his. Their tongues crashed together and Oliver’s hands were in her hair, his fingers tangling in the silky blonde strands, holding her firm against his mouth. The kiss was almost desperate in its intensity and both were gasping for air when they finally broke apart.
He reached up and slid his fingers between hers, their palms pressed together as Felicity began moving her hips. At first she undulated against him, her motions slow and relaxed, getting used to the feel of him sliding in and out of her. It seemed like a lifetime to Oliver before she picked up the pace a little bit, her lower body beginning to rock against his more firmly. He met each of her downward movements with an upward one of his own, and soon she was taking him in completely with every thrust. She cried out as she fell forward again, her hair creating a private cocoon around them while he drove up into her. Their hips were colliding frantically now, each of them anxious to reach that peak of pleasure and release, and seeking to draw it out of the other.
“Come for me,” Oliver urged her, and Felicity cried out, driving down onto him while he thrust into her as hard and fast as he could. Her breathing was shallow and her eyes fluttered closed when the aching sensation threatened to overwhelm her. His gruff demand that she look at him while he dominated her body caused them to pop back open immediately, and the fierce, possessive look in his eyes did her in. With a shriek she came, fingers of white-hot lightening spearing into her and spiraling through every nerve ending in her body. She bucked against him, her walls squeezing tightly until he couldn’t contain himself anymore.
“Fuck!” he shouted hoarsely, his body arching up while his cock exploded, his orgasm shooting deep into her. He continued to shudder and his fluid continued to pump into her with every aftershock, until he was empty and both were physically drained.
Felicity pressed her palms against his chest in an effort to hold herself up. She was exhausted, in the best way possible. Oliver sat up, taking her hands and sliding them over his shoulders while his arms banded around her waist, crushing her breasts against his chest. He was still buried inside her and the motion drove him deeper into her body.
She wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck, her head dropping until their foreheads pressed together. Their breaths came in quiet, panting gasps while they both tried to recover from the physical exertion and the emotional aftereffects.
“Mine,” Oliver breathed, the little puff of air from the single syllable caressing her lips.
“Yours,” she agreed immediately. There was no doubt now, not for either of them, not that there ever had been. She would be his until the day she took her last breath.
Oliver leaned back, taking her with him. She wiggled a little bit, letting his softening cock slide from her body, and rolled to the side. His arm came up and pulled her tightly against his side, her thigh slid over his until her leg was resting between his, and, exhausted, they fell wordlessly into sleep.
They woke several times throughout the night, reaching for the other without thought. Every time they came together it was as powerful as the first. Felicity swore her body was going to rebel because she was so unused to the physical demands Oliver was placing on her, but she figured if she died she couldn’t ask for a better way to go.
Oliver realized his hunger for her, instead of being sated, was consuming him further with every minute that passed. He couldn’t have her often enough to quell his intense desire. He marveled over it as he woke for the last time, wrapping his hand around her hip where it curved against his. She was turned away from him, her back pressed to his chest and her gorgeous ass nestled against his upper thighs. He felt himself stirring to life once more and he wondered if she was too raw to take him again.
“I can’t believe you’re still functioning,” she mumbled sleepily. “After that many orgasms I’d swear you’d need to rest before you could even think about sex again.”
“It’s only because I’m with you,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to her bare shoulder. “Just making up for lost time.”
Felicity yawned, coming further awake and feeling the flame fan to life yet again. She was surprised she could continue to respond; she would have thought her body couldn’t produce any more fluids for as much as she’d lost during the previous twelve hours. She wiggled her ass, sliding up a little to align their lower bodies and he slipped inside her easily, moving back and forth unhurriedly.
She grabbed Oliver’s hand and brought it around, placing it on her breast while he rocked his hips against her backside. His fingers splayed across the pale flesh, squeezing and kneading it rhythmically, his thumb rubbing leisurely over her nipple. Felicity whimpered softly as his thrusts increased in speed and intensity; she lifted her leg and placed her foot on his thigh, opening her up so he could move against her more freely.
Oliver’s hand dropped from her breast, moving down her body and delving between her thighs, his fingers sliding over her clit and stroking it firmly. It was slippery wet, indicating how ready she was. “Do you want me, baby?” he growled in her ear, and she moaned.
“God, yes,” she gasped, arching backward to take him in more fully. “I want you. I need you.”
He bit her earlobe as he continued to pound into her, his fingers furiously rubbing her clit. Her cries intensified and Oliver felt the sensations rising up in him, signaling how close he was to the edge. “Come for me, Felicity,” he demanded.
She did. The pleasure burst, her body spasmed, and she cried out his name as her orgasm rushed through her, her walls clenching around him tightly. He thrust twice more and followed her with a shout, filling her with his release. Both of them relaxed back into the pillows, and Felicity let out a breathless laugh.
“Can you wake me up like this every morning from now on?” she asked faintly, a silly grin spreading from ear to ear. “It sure as hell beats an alarm clock.”
Oliver chuckled. “I don’t know, if you don’t stop wearing me out like this I might not be able to perform on command,” he teased, feeling ridiculously light-hearted. All the pressure, the stress and the strain and the rigid control he’d held over himself, they’d all disappeared in the night. He knew, realistically, that it didn’t signify the end of all their problems. He would still worry about her and insist that she take precautions, and she’d still fight him on it and refuse to allow him to take responsibility for her safety. They were both stubborn and they’d still argue. But right now, holding her in his arms after a spellbinding night of lovemaking, he couldn’t imagine anything they couldn’t overcome.
Felicity rolled stiffly out of bed, groaning as she forced her muscles to move enough to carry her across the room. “I feel like I’ve had the most ass-kicking workout of my life,” she mused. “So not complaining about it, though.” She disappeared into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
He considered following her, but decided against it because he couldn’t see himself sharing a shower with her and not pushing her up against the wall, wrapping her legs around his waist, and fucking the hell out of her underneath the water’s spray. They both needed a respite or they’d be nothing but jelly for the rest of the day. As much as he hated to let work intrude on their honeymoon period, they had a lot of it to do; they were down to three days and the clock was ticking. They couldn’t afford any distractions today.
When Felicity emerged from the bathroom completely naked and still dripping wet, however, he was sorely tempted to revise his stance on that. “Are you trying to kill me?” he growled, although he was pleased at the gleam in her eye as she sauntered over to the bed. His eyes were roaming her body, trying to look at everything at once. Her pert breasts were shiny in the warm glow of the sun streaming through the window. Her nipples were pink and hard and he wanted to sink his teeth into them. The water sluiced down her body, disappearing into the short curls at the apex of her thighs.
“Now you know what it’s like to watch you strut around the Arrow Cave half-naked all the time,” she murmured wickedly. She bent over to grab something from the bottom drawer of the dresser, glancing over her shoulder and winking at him provocatively.
“I need to take a shower myself,” he muttered darkly, throwing off the covers and heading for the bathroom. He used the time in the shower to try to clear his head and focus on what they had to do that day, but thoughts of Felicity beneath him, spread open and biting her lip, crying out in pleasure as he drove into her over and over again, kept distracting him. Oliver was slightly surprised that the water around him didn’t evaporate into steam the moment it touched his overheated skin.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he went back into their room and saw she’d dressed in something relatively chaste. She was wearing a pair of red capri pants and a white crop top, with white wedge sandals. His relief was short-lived when he realized she wasn’t wearing a bra and her nipples were clearly visible underneath the light fabric.
“You cannot wear that to our session,” he protested. “You’ll distract Raymond. And me.”
Felicity winked. “Maybe that’s the plan.”
Oliver moved in behind her and brought his arms up, pushing the material above her breasts and palming them in his strong hands. His thumb and forefinger pinched her nipples lightly, rolling them between his fingers. Her head dropped back against his shoulder and she groaned happily, her eyes drifting closed while she enjoyed the feel of his masterful hands on her body. His lips brushed her ear as he breathed out his command. “Change, or I’ll be thinking about doing this all day instead of trying to focus on our mission.”
She made a face at him but broke away anyway, pulling the offending top over her head in one move. Contrarily, she pulled out a black lace demi-bra that pushed her breasts up and dressed quickly in a simple black v-neck tunic. It showed more cleavage than Oliver was happy about, but he was willing to accept the compromise.
“Ready for our second-to-last private session?” Oliver asked, holding out his arm. Felicity slipped hers through it and smiled up at him.
“Let’s go nail Raymond’s ass to the wall.”
I know it's been awhile since I updated, and I hate that I left you all hanging for so long. Honestly, though, I almost gave up on this story. I'm so fed up with the direction the show has taken that I actually stopped watching after 3.10; I'm having real issues with Felicity these days and I almost don't even care about Olicity anymore. So I've really, really been struggling with what to do with this story. I hate it when stories I love get abandoned and I didn't want to do that to all of you who've been so patient with me and have followed me this whole time, but I also had literally zero desire to write this anymore. Then, miraculously, I had a burst of inspiration and sat down and cranked this bad boy out. I've also been working on another story and I've been enthusiastic about both, so I hope that my writing funk is pretty much over. At the very least, I promise not to give up on it completely. Thanks for sticking with this story.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Felicity winced uncomfortably as she and Oliver walked downstairs to the lobby area. She wouldn't trade the previous night, and the hours between then and now, for anything in the world. The downside was that her thighs ached and walking made certain tender areas twinge in pain.
Oliver noticed her discomfort and hid his pleased grin behind a look of concern. "Do you want me to carry you?" he murmured.
She made a face. "Thanks, but no. I think I can handle it. I'll be fine by tomorrow."
He smiled provocatively. "You say that like the same thing isn't going to happen tonight."
She was torn between desire to repeat the previous night's performance, and a fervent wish to let her overworked body heal before subjecting it to that same level of activity. "I don't think my body can take another round of 'How many times can I orgasm?', not without a little bit of a break," she said wryly.
He shrugged. "We'll be pretty busy today. That'll give you plenty of time to recover," he said with a teasing glint in his eye.
"Oh look, we're here," she pointed out, knowing she was being obvious but not caring. Her brow furrowed when she looked in the room and saw that it was empty. "But Raymond isn't. That's weird, he's always here before us."
Oliver smirked. "I'd be fine if he never showed up," he muttered, and Felicity nudged him in the ribs with her elbow.
"Except for the fact that we need him in order to figure out what the hell is going on around here," she reminded him grimly. "We need to find out who Kody Carron is and what she has to do with all this."
He glanced out the door and looked up and down the hallway. "Let's check out his office again," he suggested. "See if we can find anything else."
Felicity gave him a look that clearly stated, "You're nuts," and shook her head negatively. "There's no way we can risk it," she argued. "If he catches us in there again we're toast. We'll get kicked out of the retreat and we'll never know who the couriers are."
He had his stubborn face on before Felicity was even done speaking. "We have to try. We're coming up against a brick wall and if we don't do something, we'll go back home in three days without ever finding out who the couriers are anyway."
She sighed, rubbing her forehead as she thought. "We wait 15 minutes," she said finally. "If he hasn't shown up by then, we swing by his office. If he's not there, we search. Quickly. And then we get the hell out and never return."
"I can agree to that." Switching gears, he sat down on the couch, pulling her with him until she was settled comfortably in his lap. "Since we have 15 minutes to kill…" he murmured, and she rolled her eyes and pushed at his chest.
"You really think I'm going to have sex with you here, when Raymond could walk in any minute?" she protested, and Oliver's eyes took on a thoughtful gleam.
"That wasn't where I was going, but I'm game if you are," he teased playfully.
Felicity stuck her tongue out at him, but grinned in spite of herself. It was wonderful to get to see this free, liberated side of Oliver. He was normally so serious and in control that seeing him flirt and be outrageous made her feel almost like she was looking at a stranger. She guessed she was seeing part of who he was pre-Island, although a nicer, more loving version of that person.
She sank into him, laying her head on his shoulder and content to let him leisurely stroke her hair. They sat in silence, both of them comfortable just being with each other and not needing to talk or kiss or do anything except enjoy the moment. She was still mindful of the time, however, and as the clock ticked closer to the deadline she'd given Oliver, she became more thoughtful. It worried her a little that Raymond wasn't there. She reasoned that the only explanation for him not showing up to a scheduled session was something not good.
"Time to go," Oliver said finally. She slid off his lap and he stood, pulling her up off the couch with him. "If Raymond is there we'll say we wondered what was going on. If he isn't, we find out what secrets he's keeping."
Felicity kept a watchful eye out as they headed for Raymond's office. The halls were empty, silent, and she tried not to get creeped out by the quiet and the tension in the air. Oliver knocked on the office door twice, waited for a few moments, then knocked again. After five seconds had passed and no one had acknowledged the knock, Oliver worked the lock until the door swung open.
The office was empty.
Felicity's mouth dropped open as she realized that everything was gone. The plaques from the walls were missing, squares of bright white paint visible where they'd once hung. Filing cabinets stood open, cleared of their contents. The only things remaining on the desk were the phone and computer. "He got spooked," she said finally. "He figured out we were connecting him to the weapons ring and he split."
Oliver's face was stony. "Look on the computer. Find out if there's anything you missed before."
She sat down behind the desk and the rapid-fire click of her nails on the keys filled the room. "You know he wiped everything that was on here," she pointed out, doing her best to find something anyway.
Oliver swore under his breath and leaned into the desk, his palms pressed to the shiny mahogany surface. The frustration was mounting as Felicity's fingers flew, and he was about to erupt when she finally crowed in triumph. He came around the desk and leaned over her shoulder, quickly scanning the contents of the screen. "How did you manage to find this?" he asked, and she arched her eyebrow as if to say, "Do you really want me to attempt to explain it to you?" He shook his head and she smirked.
"So this basically confirms Kody is here at the Tipton," Felicity mused, re-reading the brief email. It simply said that Raymond could feel the heat and was leaving before his cover was blown. He advised Kody and her partner to leave as well. Two lines that didn't give them much more information than they'd had before, but re-energized Felicity all the same. "You realize what this means, right?" she asked, and Oliver frowned.
"Other than the fact that we still have no idea who this woman is?"
"No. It means that we've been chasing our tails trying to figure out which of these couples is the couriers. None of them are." He stared at her quizzically, so she plunged ahead. "Kody and her partner. They're the couriers, and they're in the Tipton. They're just not one of the sets of couples here for the retreat. It's why it didn't make sense that all the couples seemed genuinely married and I couldn't find anything to indicate that one of the marriages was a fraud. They're all married, and all legitimately here for the retreat. Now we need to focus on finding out where the hell Kody and her partner are."
Oliver was beginning to catch Felicity's enthusiasm, letting a smile escape briefly but maintaining his all-business attitude. "So we can stop wasting our time on the couples. It couldn't have come at a better time, too," he added, and Felicity remembered that their next step was to track Melina and Anson's movements. She breathed a sigh of relief that they wouldn't have to subject themselves to the reticent, antisocial couple any more than was necessary.
She took a quick photo of the email with her phone and powered down the computer, following Oliver surreptitiously out the door and locking it behind her.
By unspoken agreement, Oliver and Felicity acknowledged that they needed to make an appearance with the rest of the group. They'd gone back to their room and changed into swimsuits and headed down to the pool.
Felicity had made her way over to the group of lounge chairs where the other women were reclining. Oliver's eyes had followed her as she sank gracefully onto an empty chaise and accepted a tall frosted drink from a passing pool waiter. She was wearing a shimmering gold one-piece suit that was far from demure. It was one-shouldered and the legs were cut extremely high, exposing the curve of her waist. The liquid gold fabric molded to her breasts and he wanted to peel the suit from her skin, exposing them to his eyes, his hands, and his mouth. He could feel himself hardening and wondered if he'd be able to keep his hands off her when they were back in their room.
He noticed irritably that the other men were watching her as raptly as he was. He cleared his throat loudly, breaking the spell and drawing their attention back to him. Hunter and Donovan had the good grace to look abashed, but Peter stared back at him insolently. "Seems like things are improving with the missus," he said slyly, and Oliver clenched his fists. He itched to pound the smarmy sneer off the other man's face.
"Felicity and I are very happy," he said, his voice tight. "Better than we've ever been. Thanks for your concern."
Peter's expression was sour and he muttered something about needing to get out of the sun for a little while before heading back into the hotel. Donovan spoke up to cover the awkward silence. "Oliver, how have you and Felicity been enjoying Barbados?"
Oliver paused for a moment. "We haven't seen much of it, but we love it. I think next time we come here we'll make sure we don't have anything else planned for us, so we can go where we want, when we want." He smiled, slightly amazed that this time it wasn't acting. There wasn't any doubt in his mind that they'd be back. Barbados would always be special to them because this was where the walls came down, where they'd overcome his stubbornness and achieved happiness.
He glanced over at Felicity, who was giggling with Genevieve. Ariel and Elise were still reclined; their eyes were closed and they were ignoring the other two women. Felicity was lit up, her eyes sparkling while her mouth moved animatedly. She took his breath away, and suddenly he was done 'putting in an appearance' and he wanted to be with her. Just her. Even though they needed to work on tracking down Kody and her partner and wouldn't have time to be as alone as he'd like, eliminating the presence of the other retreat guests was a good start.
He excused himself from Hunter and Donovan and made his way over to the women. "Genevieve," he greeted the other woman warmly. "How are you?"
She smiled up at him. "Doing fabulously," she replied, shaking her head with a rueful grin. "Poor Elliott isn't, though. We think he got food poisoning last night. I hated to leave him but he never wants me around when he's sick. He's always concerned that I'll end up getting sick myself."
"Ever the gentleman," Felicity said fondly. "I'm going to be really sad to leave you two when we all go home."
Genevieve waved a hand dismissively. "Please. We both have loads of money, we can visit whenever we want."
Oliver found himself smiling again. She was a lovely woman and he was pleased that Felicity had established a real friendship with her. "You and Elliott are welcome anytime," he assured her. He returned his gaze to Felicity. "In the meantime, I'm going to steal my bride away from you. We'll see you at dinner?"
Genevieve nodded her assent as Oliver reached his hand out for Felicity to place hers into. He pulled her up from the lounge chair, mesmerized by the fluidity and grace with which she rose. It seemed her every movement was designed to entice him. Then again, it didn't take much.
After stopping by their room to change into regular clothes, Felicity and Oliver made their way quietly to the security offices. They were skeleton-staffed due to the minimum number of guests, so it wasn't surprising to find the office empty at lunchtime. Oliver made short work of the lock and Felicity immediately started looking for the security footage.
"It looks like they keep each day's footage on a disc, then every 30 days they rotate the discs out and re-write over them with new footage. It's a completely antiquated storage method and I have half a mind to talk to the head of security or even the manager and tell them exactly what morons they are for not upgrading and maybe I can do that for them before we leave, after we identify the couriers obviously."
Oliver had to take a breath after just listening to her ramble. "Let's worry about their storage system after we find out what they have," he reminded her gently. "Where are the discs from the last week?"
She sorted through a haphazard pile of discs in a bin beside the desk, coming up with the ones dated for the last 7 days. She glanced at the clock, noting that it was getting close to one o'clock and someone would likely be back from lunch soon. "We don't have time to watch these here," she muttered, sliding the collection into her bag. "We'll have to take them back to our room and copy them to my laptop, then bring them back later and hope nobody goes looking for them in the meantime."
They snuck upstairs with their ill-gotten gains and Felicity bee-lined for her laptop, popping the previous day's disc into the slot and setting it up to copy onto her hard drive. She went through the same process with the remaining six discs, breathing an imperceptible sigh of relief when they were all stored safely on her computer.
"I don't suppose you'd want to run back downstairs and see if the security office is still empty and return these discs, would you?" she asked off-handedly, glancing over at him while she pulled up the first disc's footage. "I'll scan through until you get back."
Oliver smirked. "It sounds like you already made the decision for me," he said dryly. He scooped up the stack of discs and headed back downstairs, Felicity waving at him distractedly as he left the room.
She became absorbed in watching the comings and goings of the guests and staff at the retreat. Most of it was fairly boring and routine, but she saw several things that piqued her interest. She mentally filed them away to show Oliver when he got back. She watched Elliott and Genevieve steal little moments to kiss and cuddle when others weren't looking, and she saw Hunter and Elise in the midst of a nasty argument that culminated in her flipping him off and stomping away. Grotesquely enough, she saw Peter and Ariel in a clandestine meeting. Her arms were around his neck and he was cupping her ass, squeezing tightly if the tension in his hands was any indication.
Besides making her feel seriously nauseated, it weighed heavily on Felicity's mind and heart. Donovan was such a great guy and she couldn't fathom why any woman would cheat on him with a lecherous cretin like Peter. Now she had to decide if she kept the information to herself, or if she went to Donovan with the knowledge that would wreck his world. Not to mention she'd have to come up with a good story as to how she came by that information.
She was so entranced with the events unfolding before her that she lost track of time, until the sun beginning to sink low in the sky reminded her how late it had gotten. She stretched, uncurling her body from several hours of being hunched over the laptop. As her brain began to clear it suddenly hit her that Oliver had been gone for hours when he was only supposed to be gone for a few minutes. Anxiety flooded through her and she hastily pulled on a pair of black sandals before heading downstairs.
Her first stop was the security office, which had been vacated for the evening. Looking down the hall in both directions, she cautiously tried the door handle only to discover it was locked. Frustrated, she yanked hard on it and stumbled back in surprise when the door popped open. Apparently the lock wasn't solidly latched. Score one for dumb luck.
Felicity stepped inside and immediately went for the pile of discs, noting with relief that the ones they'd-okay, she'd-filched were accounted for. So obviously Oliver had made it to his destination without major incident, deposited the discs, and gone again. But where to? He certainly hadn't gone back to their room. She quickly exited the security office and re-latched the locked door behind her, aiming herself down the hallway that led to the dining room. She couldn't imagine Oliver just forgetting about her, not considering what they were supposed to be doing, but maybe he'd gotten caught up with the guys and couldn't come up with an excuse to leave.
When she opened the door to the dining room, it was already bustling. All the other couples were present and accounted for, but no Oliver. Her panic was growing and she pulled out her phone, stabbing at the keys frantically. She waited impatiently for her phone to light up with a sheepish reply and an apology for scaring her, but her phone stayed stubbornly dark. She glanced around helplessly, not knowing where to go or what to do next.
She went outside to the pool area but it was dark and empty, the water nearly still except for the slight ripples caused by the soft breeze. Whirling around, she ran inside and began checking all the rooms they'd spent time in for one reason or another. With each empty room, her panic escalated until she was ready to scream. Finally, desperately, she darted back up the stairs, taking them two at a time until she burst into their room in the hope that he'd come back while she was out. He wasn't there. She checked the bathroom. Empty.
Shaking, Felicity stumbled back to the bed and collapsed on it, her mind blank but for one solitary, frightening thought. Oliver was missing.
So... How 'bout them twists, huh? :) Tell me what you thought and if you like the direction I'm going in!
The response to my last chapter means more to me than you can possibly know. I appreciate so much that you all supported me and shared your frustrations with the show with me. It's good to know it's not just my little corner of the fandom that is as fed up as I am. :) I've spent the last few weeks working on my new The 100 story, but I managed to sneak this in too just because you all motivated me to keep going. I'm hoping to wrap it up in two, maybe three more chapters. (BTW, if any of you are The 100/Bellarke fans, keep an eye out for "Phoenix Rising," which I should start posting here in the next 2-3 weeks.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Felicity awoke the next morning after a fitful, restless sleep. Her head ached and she felt sick, but she dragged herself out of bed to brush her teeth and her hair, as well as put her contacts in. Yawning, she programmed a cup of coffee from the machine in the kitchenette area and chugged it back while she pulled on a pair of boot-cut jeans and a simple tee, then programmed a second. It was going to be a long day and if she was the praying kind, she would have prayed that by the end of it, Oliver would be back in their bed and the couriers would be exposed.
She hefted the Springfield XDs 9mm pistol that had been a gift from Digg right after the Undertaking. The weight felt comfortable and familiar in her hand, though it had been months since she’d taken it out for practice. Digg had warned her that Oliver would lose his shit if he found out Digg had armed and trained Felicity in the gun’s use during Oliver’s absence, so she’d only taken it out on occasion to refresh herself. It had been her and Digg’s little secret.
Taking the extended 9-round magazine out of the case and sliding it firmly into the gun with the heel of her palm, Felicity recalled their conversation the previous night.
“John, oh my God, I need your help.”
His voice came over the line, only a hint of alarm sneaking through the calm. “Felicity. What’s wrong?”
“It’s Oliver. He’s gone. God, John, I got so caught up in what I was doing that I didn’t realize it had been forever since he left the room and I looked all over for him but couldn’t find him anywhere and I tried to tell the hotel staff but they wanted to know why he’d be missing and I couldn’t explain-.“
“Felicity!” His sharp bark broke the flow of babble that was pouring from her lips, and despite the tears sliding silently down her cheeks, she was grateful for it. “Do you have any idea what happened?”
She gulped back the tears, breathing in and out heavily to steady her nerves. “Raymond figured out we were onto him, I think. He warned Kody and left.”
“Who are Raymond and Kody? The couriers?”
“No. Well, Raymond isn’t. Kody is. We-Oliver and I, I mean- think Raymond was their point of contact here at the retreat. We’ve never seen Kody but I found some stuff in Raymond’s files to finger her. Except not in that way, it’s not sexual, at least I don’t think it is, he was just able to identify her for us.”
Despite the potentially deadly serious nature of the situation, Digg bit back a laugh at her unintentional innuendo. It settled her a little bit, to have that semblance of normalcy. “I think I know where Kody might be staying, or at the very least where she and Raymond might be meeting. I was reviewing the security footage over the past week and kept seeing him disappear off screen. When I linked the different security feeds I realized there’s a slight gap not covered by the cameras, on the left side of the hotel near the back. I think there might be an underground passageway or a hidden area.”
“What do you need from me? I can be on a QC jet in an hour if you want.”
Felicity took another deep breath. She was finally feeling a little bit steadier. “I don’t think that will be necessary. By the time you get here all of this could be resolved, anyway.”
“And maybe it won’t,” he argued.
“I can do this, Digg. I just need you to pull up the building’s blueprints and satellite x-rays and send them to me. I didn’t know I was going to need advanced satellite technology and I didn’t bring the right equipment.” The self-chastisement was evident in her voice.
“Do not blame yourself for not having absolutely every bit of your equipment with you, Felicity,” he said firmly. “Most of that shit isn’t exactly portable.”
“My computers are not shit!” she cried in outrage. “They’re my babies!” Digg snorted and Felicity couldn’t help but grin. “I’ll talk you through pulling up the blueprints. Just do exactly what I tell you.”
“I’m not exactly inexperienced with technology,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “I may not be a genius at it like you, but I do have an idea of what I’m doing.”
She rolled her eyes while guiding him through how to access the information she needed. Several minutes later the requested blueprints and scans were loading on her tablet’s screen, and her eyes scanned the data rapidly. “I think I see where it might be. There’s an unmarked eight by ten area under the southwest corner. I bet you anything that’s where Raymond keeps disappearing to.”
“Do you have an idea what you’re going to find?”
“Not a clue,” she replied grimly. “But at least it’s somewhere to start.”
“Okay. Now do me a favor. Go get your carry-on, the one with the retractable handle, not the one with the straps.”
Puzzled, Felicity did as he asked. She held the phone tightly between her ear and shoulder while she pulled the luggage from the closet. “Got it. Why do I got it?”
“There’s a false bottom in it. Pull up the hard black plastic panel.” She did, eyes widening in relief when she spotted the familiar gun case.
“You think of everything,” she said on a sigh of gratitude. “Except, maybe, thinking to tell me it was even there. What if I needed it but didn’t call you?”
Digg chuckled. “I knew you wouldn’t call me unless Oliver wasn’t available to help. If Oliver was there, you wouldn’t need the gun.”
Felicity made a face at the phone but refrained from responding. “I’ll let you know as soon as I know something. Thanks, Digg.”
“Anytime, Felicity. Now promise me something, okay?”
“Try to get a decent night’s sleep. Don’t go off half-cocked while you’re running on empty.”
“Digg!” she protested. “The longer I wait to go after him, the more likely it is they’ll do something to him before I can find him!”
“Felicity, I’m not suggesting. I’m telling. You won’t do Oliver or yourself any good if you’re stumbling around in the dark and relying on adrenaline to keep you going. You don’t have the training to push past it and if you get careless, both you and Oliver could end up paying the price. Now promise me.” His voice was non-nonsense and told her he would not tolerate any backtalk.
Sighing heavily, she agreed. “But if anything happens to him while I’m cooling my heels, I’m blaming you.”
“If anything happens to you while you’re looking for him, he’ll blame me,” Digg retorted. “I’d rather face your wrath than his.”
Smiling a little at the truthfulness of the statement, Felicity disconnected the call.
She grabbed the concealed carry holster from the case now and strapped it to her right ankle, securing the gun before tugging the cuff of her jeans leg down to cover it. Glancing wistfully at the coffee pot, she decided to abstain from a third cup in the event that she actually needed to use the gun. She didn’t want to end up shooting someone who wasn’t a bad guy.
Felicity was torn between wanting to get out immediately to start searching for Oliver and the knowledge that if she was going to be successful, she needed to be prepared. Queuing up the security footage for one last refresher, she settled back into the chair and tried to clear her mind so she could focus on what was going on.
It wasn’t any different than what she’d watched twice more last night. Details stood out in sharper relief, however, since she wasn’t frantic with worry and shaking in her shoes. She was still scared, of course, but with the newfound calmness came clarity. Her eyes zeroed in on the comings and goings of the retreat guests and staff, and once again she watched Raymond frequently disappearing in the black hole created by the lack of camera coverage in that one spot. With the help of the blueprints she realized that since the likely point of entry was on the northwest corner of the hotel, but the area he was most likely heading for was on the southwest, he had a bit of distance to travel to get to his destination.
Something triggered in the back of her brain but she couldn’t grasp what had stood out to her. She reversed the footage and realized it was a flicker from one of the upper camera views that unconsciously caught her attention. Her gaze narrowed as she studied the activity, not sure what her brain was trying to tell her, when all of a sudden it clicked. Her mind raced to connect the dots as she frantically scanned back and forth through the footage, going from one day to the next. When she realized what she was seeing, her eyes widened substantially. “Son of a bitch!” she swore. She snapped the laptop shut, mindless of the fact that she’d scolded Oliver for the same action just two days earlier. It already seemed like a lifetime ago.
With one last glance in the mirror to make sure she didn’t look like a rabid lunatic, and also to verify her gun was carefully concealed, she hurried down to the lobby. The other retreat guests were milling around, waiting for their transportation to take them into Bridgetown for the second excursion. Felicity breathed a sigh of relief that everyone was going to be gone while she was digging around beneath the hotel. She was looking around for one person in particular when Genevieve caught sight of her, smiling brightly as she approached.
“Felicity! So good to see you again. You looked rather upset last night, is everything okay?”
Felicity gave her a measured smile, making a concerted effort to maintain a cool, collected façade. “Oliver got very violently ill all of a sudden,” she lied adroitly. “I was pretty frantic because I didn’t know what had happened. Now we think it was food poisoning.”
Genevieve shook her head in dismay. “The poor man! How is he feeling this morning?”
“Better, but still pretty miserable. We’re going to stay behind today and give him a chance to recuperate.” She spoke distractedly, her eyes skipping around the guests. Just as she suspected, there was someone missing besides Oliver.
“That’s probably for the best,” Genevieve replied sympathetically. “Would you like me to pick anything up for you? Any souvenirs you planned on getting this trip?”
Felicity stopped looking around and focused her attention on Genevieve. “No thanks, Gen, but I really appreciate the offer.” She bit her lip, realizing that Genevieve could help her sell the story to the other guests. “Maybe if you find any locals well-versed in home healing remedies, you could ask them for something to help Oliver?” she suggested, feeling like a heel for enlisting her friend in trying to cure an imaginary illness. “I doubt a regular anti-nausea medication is going to work.”
“Of course!” Genevieve’s instant reassurance made Felicity feel worse. Before she could get mired down in it, Traci Norris called out that their vehicle had arrived. “I better get back over there,” she said, giving Felicity a brief hug. “Tell Oliver I hope he feels better and if I can find anything to help that along, I’ll bring it back with me.”
“Have a great time in Bridgetown,” Felicity called out as the brunette rejoined the group, relieved to not have to lie to her anymore. She waited impatiently for them to load up and leave, and when they were just a speck in the distance, she made her way around to the left side of the hotel.
She knew the approximate location of the gap in camera coverage, and she kept an eagle eye out for any imperfections in the building’s structure.
After scanning the surface for any sign of tampering and coming up empty, Felicity kicked the wall in frustration. She lost her balance and fell backward, trying to catch herself but landing hard on her left hand. Fire shot through her wrist and up her arm, causing her to yelp in pain. When she moved to take the weight off of it she felt the sidewalk shift beneath her.
Felicity stood as quickly as she was able, nudging the section of sidewalk she’d landed on. It had come slightly loose after her fall and she was able to push it a little bit with the toe of her sneaker. The piece of sidewalk dropped and slid underneath the square next to it, revealing a set of stairs. Cautiously she crept down them, pushing at the section of sidewalk and watching it slide back into place.
The interior was very dim, lit only by small garden lights that gave off a faint glow. She had to stand still for a few moments to adjust to the gloom. Even once her eyes had grown accustomed to the low light, she was confused. She knew she should be following the wall, considering the entrance point and her destination were both on the west side, but she couldn’t really see where the wall was. Coming down out of the light into the dark had messed up her sense of direction and she wasn’t sure which way she was oriented.
Making a quick decision, she pulled her Bluetooth out and put it in her ear so she could call Digg. It was six am in Starling City and she hoped Digg was awake. “Felicity?”
She wasn’t sure how far her voice would carry, so she kept it as low as possible. “I need your help,” she said softly. “I’m all turned around and I can’t figure out where I’m going. I activated the GPS in my phone and I need you to figure out where I’m at according to the scans, then talk me through making it to the southwest corner.”
Digg chuckled softly. “For once the navigator needs to be given directions.”
“Give me crap when Oliver and I are out of this alive,” she said grimly, and he quieted.
“Walk a few steps for me.” He paused while she complied. “Okay, the wall is on your six, you need it to be on your nine.” Felicity pivoted so that she was facing the opposite direction and took a few more steps, waiting for confirmation. “You’re good. It’s mostly a straight shot from here.”
He went silent while Felicity carefully stepped forward. She stretched her left arm out, gently wiggling her fingers to see if she could feel the wall, and was disappointed when she felt nothing but air. The going was slow and she could feel the pressure building in her chest with every step. She had no idea what she was going to find when she reached that room, or whatever it was. It was very possible she was on a wild goose chase and there was nothing there. It was also possible she’d stumble upon Oliver’s body. The thought made her nauseated and she rushed to think of something else. Her fervent hope was that Oliver would be there, unguarded, and she’d be able to get him out before his attackers returned. It was an unlikely scenario, but she clung to that image as she continued to take small steps forward.
Digg’s voice sounded suddenly in her ear. “You’ve got a pipe about four feet in front of you, running along the ground crossways. Whoever installed it was an idiot just begging for a Worker’s Comp claim.” His disgruntled tone amused her. Who else would care about employees tripping over a pipe right now?
She was thankful for the warning when her foot struck something solid. She bent down and felt with her right hand, determining that the top of the pipe hit her mid-shin. Carefully, she raised her leg until her foot cleared the pipe, then placed it solidly on the other side before making the same maneuver with her other leg. “Anything else I need to look out for?” she breathed, and his denial put her at ease.
She could see what appeared to be a shaft of light on the ground up ahead, indicating a closed door to a room with a light on. Her pulse started pounding in her ears and she knelt again, unstrapping the holster and lifting her gun out as cautiously as possible. She held her arm up, bracing the gun with the palm of her other hand, and crept forward the few remaining feet. With a silent apology, she switched the Bluetooth off and slid it back into her pocket. She wouldn’t be able to concentrate with Digg’s voice in her ear if all hell broke loose once that door opened; it gave her a new appreciation for Oliver’s ability to assimilate information from all directions when he was in the midst of battle.
Taking a deep breath, Felicity swung the door open and aimed her gun at chest level. The brightness blinded her momentarily, but when her vision cleared she saw exactly who she’d been looking for earlier. Out of the corner of her eye she recognized Oliver’s form slumped over and duct-taped to a chair, but she exhaled in relief when she realized by the rise and fall of his back that he was alive. She shifted her focus back to the other person in the room. The face staring at her was shocked, and Felicity let a slow smile spread across her lips.
So... Any guesses? :)
We are almost to the end! After this there will be one more chapter to wrap the story up, then this monster will finally be done. LOL It may not be long by some people's standards (side-eyeing my favorite stories that are 40-50+ chapters, which I will never in this lifetime achieve), but prior to this, my longest story was 10 chapters. I appreciate all of you who've stuck with me and continue to leave reviews. You are the reason I managed to rally and continue on with this when all I wanted was to give up. Much love.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ariel glared poisonously when Felicity called her by name. "Who the hell are you people?" she seethed, waving one arm wildly. The other maintained a firm, steady grip on her gun. "What in the hell are a playboy CEO and his trophy wife doing digging around my operation?"
Felicity raised one eyebrow. "First of all, I'm not a trophy wife. I'm smarter than all your minions put together, although sadly that's really not saying much. Secondly, what in the hell are you doing running a biochemical weapons operation? An MIT degree didn't set you up well enough? You're in the trophy wife club yourself, you don't need this." She purposely ignored the second question. It was going to be nearly impossible to protect Oliver's identity, but she was determined to do everything she could to keep anyone from figuring it out.
The other woman barked out a sharp laugh. "I became a trophy wife to throw suspicion off me; nobody would believe a pampered socialite and her investor husband could be deviant criminals. The weapons were always my goal."
Felicity shook her head in disbelief. "Donovan couldn't have been a party to this. There's no way he would put so many people at risk just for money."
A derisive snort sounded behind her, followed quickly by the ominous click of a gun. "Donovan? You've got to be fucking joking." Felicity turned, slowly, and swallowed her fear when she saw Peter standing behind her, a revolver pointed straight at her head. "He wouldn't have the stomach to do what we're doing."
Felicity's mind raced as the final puzzle piece dropped into place. Everything made sense now. She'd been unable to find anything that proved any of the marriages were fake, because none of them were. Yet at the same time, Oliver's informant's insistence that the pair of couriers wasn't really married was accurate, too. Both couriers were legitimately married, just not to each other.
The relief that she hadn't lost her touch was almost immediately overshadowed by the realization that she was cornered in a small room underneath the hotel by two people with guns and a real need to keep her quiet, and an unconscious, barely-breathing Oliver. She had to remain calm and use her wits to get them out of here safely.
"What the fuck are you doing, Kody?" Peter asked irritably, transferring his attention from Felicity to Ariel. "Why are you spilling your guts to this uptight bitch, who we don't know anything about except for the fact that she's obviously a gold digger?"
Felicity knew it was stupid to let him get to her, but the insult was so far from the truth that she couldn't help but react. "The last thing I wanted Oliver Queen for was his money!" she spewed, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "Not that I need to explain myself to a criminal who clearly is only useful because he's dumb enough to do whatever he's told."
Peter snarled and Felicity instantly regretted her rash outburst. He leveled the gun at her face and his finger tightened on the trigger; she flinched away, as if it would protect her once the gun was fired.
"Peter!" Ariel snapped. He stared at Felicity a few more seconds before letting his eyes shift to acknowledge Ariel. "Are you stupid? You can't shoot her." Before Felicity could even breathe a sigh of relief, she added, "Not down here, anyway. Take her down to the beach, put a bullet in her brain, and dump her. By the time anyone finds her, we'll be gone."
"What about Queen?" he asked, jerking a thumb over his shoulder to where Oliver still sat slumped over.
Ariel shrugged. "When you're done disposing of her, do the same to him."
Peter made a face. "You expect me to carry him all the hell way out to the beach?" he protested. "Not a chance. Besides, what if he wakes up before I can get him out there? I'm not about to get my ass kicked."
"Then knock him over the head with your gun before you try to haul him out!" she exclaimed impatiently. "Jesus, Peter, do I have to do all your thinking for you?"
He sneered at her but didn't comment, instead using his gun to gesture at Felicity to precede him out the door. Felicity knew if she let him get the upper hand she and Oliver were both shit out of luck. "Wait!" she blurted out unexpectedly. "If I'm going to die, I want to know what exactly is going on."
Ariel exchanged glances with Peter and shrugged. "What don't you already know? You seem to have figured out plenty on your own already."
"Were you and Raymond planning this from the start?" she asked, wracking her brain for more questions. If she could just keep them talking until Oliver regained consciousness, they might have a fighting chance. "Did you cook this up while you were at MIT together?"
"My, someone's certainly done their homework," Ariel said dryly, raising one eyebrow. "And the answer is no. Are we done yet?"
"Why are you doing this?" Felicity threw out. It didn't matter, honestly, but she couldn't let them herd her out of here or she would be dead. Come on, Oliver. Wake up.
Peter cursed. "Kody, enough already. We need to get these loose ends wrapped up so we can be ready when the shipment comes in. Raymond better have let them know he wouldn't be here, or I don't care where he is, I'm going to track his ass down and kill him."
Ariel nodded, motioning for him to herd Felicity out the door. "Sorry Mrs. Queen, but you stuck your nose in business that really doesn't concern you. You ever hear the saying 'curiosity killed the cat'? Meow, bitch."
Hope sprang to life in Felicity when she saw Oliver lift his head and tentatively open his eyes. She needed to distract them long enough for him to regain his wits, so before she could talk herself out of it, she stomped down on Peter's instep, rammed her elbow into his arm to force him into dropping the gun, and threw her head back as hard as she could. She felt triumphant when Peter howled as her skull broke his nose.
"You fucking bitch!" he screeched, and Felicity smiled grimly.
"That's no way to speak to a lady," she retorted, reaching out with her foot and sliding the gun out of his reach. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that Oliver was looking more alert, but unfortunately Ariel had done a more than adequate job of tying him up. He was fighting to get loose and both Peter and Ariel were between her and Oliver. There was no way she could help him without getting past them, and the odds weren't in her favor that she'd be successful.
She saw Ariel raise her gun and reflexively, she ducked into a crouch. The bullet ricocheted off the door frame while Felicity fumbled for the gun strapped to her ankle. With her head down and her hair around her face, she took one deep, shuddery breath before she came back up, arms out, stance perfect, gun trained squarely on Ariel.
"I'd think twice before firing that thing at me again," she said, congratulating herself on maintaining an even voice.
Peter snorted. "You really think I believe you can shoot that thing?" he jeered. "You've probably never fired a gun in your life."
Felicity stared him dead in the eye. "Do you really want me to prove you wrong?"
The doubt sprang into his face and he backed down, but Ariel took advantage of Felicity's distraction and brought her gun back up. Without blinking, Felicity pulled the trigger. Ariel screamed when the bullet lodged in her arm, hitting a nerve. Her arm went slack and the gun dropped harmlessly to the ground.
She caught Oliver's expression and winced at the shock in his eyes. Despite it, he utilized the noise as his cover and threw himself into Peter, chair and all. Peter bellowed as he went down under Oliver's superior weight and force.
Felicity's arm sagged to her side, grateful that the ordeal was over. Her relief was short-lived, however; Ariel came at her, claws bared, once she'd gotten over the shock of the gunshot wound. Felicity was stunned by the other blonde's adrenaline-fueled fury. It took all she had to maintain her grip on her gun when the woman collided with her, taking them both down.
Felicity fought hard for several minutes, dodging the talons taking swipes at her. She struggled to get in a position of dominance but Ariel's determination was strong. Finally, Felicity was able to jab her fingers into the bullet hole in the other woman's arm, eliciting a screech loud enough to raise the dead. In the chaos, Felicity surged into a sitting position and reared back, thrusting her elbow into Ariel's face with all of her strength. Ariel's eyes rolled back in her head and she went limp, collapsing on the floor.
Her breath came in panting gasps, her chest heaving, but Felicity felt victorious. When she saw that Oliver was still struggling with Peter she shot to her feet, determined to level the playing field. She wasn't sure what she was going to do, but she had to help Oliver. He was still tied to the chair and using his feet to attack, but Peter, once he was able to get to his feet, was starting to overcome the seasoned fighter.
When Peter reached into his boot and withdrew a knife, Felicity realized she only had one option. The blade came flashing down and she pulled the trigger for the second time. Peter roared when the bullet buried itself in his shoulder and the knife fell from his hand before hitting its intended mark.
He whirled around and launched himself at her, but by that point Felicity was too exhausted to try to fend him off. She side-stepped him and as he flew past, she took Ariel's earlier advice to him and brought the gun down on the back of his head. He stumbled; she pistol-whipped him again. The fight went out of him and he fell to his knees before landing on his face.
Felicity's whole upper body dropped. The gun clattered to the floor and she pressed her hands against her knees, taking in gulping breaths and trying not to throw up. Adrenaline was a bitch to recover from after the fact.
Her head popped back up and she saw Oliver looking at her questioningly, tilting his chin down to indicate the fact that he was still tied to the chair. Mortified, she rushed forward, swooping up Peter's knife as she went. She dropped to her knees behind him and began sawing at the nylon cord binding his wrists. Once the cord fell free she went to work on the loops that wrapped around his abs and the sides of the chair. Ariel certainly hadn't wanted to risk him being able to escape.
When his bindings were removed, Oliver leaped to his feet and scooped Felicity up in his arms. His lips were everywhere, kissing her face, her mouth, her hair. His hands skimmed her body, seeking to satisfy himself that she was okay and hadn't suffered any injuries. If they weren't underneath a hotel with two gunshot couriers on the floor beside them, and if Felicity wasn't trying to keep her coffee from making a reappearance, she might have had some ideas about what he could do with those hands. As it was, she was quivering and nauseated and her whole body felt about as solid as gelatin. Sexy times would have to wait.
"What in the name of God are you doing down here with a gun?" Oliver demanded loudly, his voice shaking noticeably. "And where in the hell did you learn to shoot it like that?"
Pulling back from him, she saw the fear in his eyes. She wanted to make a quip about every girl needing her secrets but she suspected he wouldn't appreciate it at this moment. "When you left, after the Undertaking, Starling City was in chaos," she reminded him. "John was afraid of me going anywhere without protection, so he bought me a gun. Then he taught me how to shoot it. Then he told me not to tell you about it, but it didn't really matter because you weren't there, although even if you were there I wouldn't have told you about it because hello, so not stupid here, and-."
Oliver cut her off with a forceful kiss. It wasn't a passionate kiss, it was a desperate one. His arms came around her like bands of steel and she clung to him, feeling his heartbeat racing underneath her palm as fast as hers was. "Don't ever do that to me again," he begged in a whisper. "I was terrified one of them was going to get the upper hand while you were fighting the other. Don't play the hero, Felicity. Please. I couldn't survive it if I lost you."
Tears threatened but she willed them back. "I'll always do whatever I have to do to protect you," she murmured back fiercely, clutching a handful of his shirt between her fingers. "If it's a choice between saving myself and saving you, it will always be you."
Oliver choked on a half-laugh, half-sob. "What a pair we are," he muttered, sprinkling more kisses across the top of her head. "How about if I just ask you to promise me to try never to put yourself in this situation again? Do you think you can do that for me?"
"Deal," she laughed shakily, "as long as you'll promise to try not to put me in a situation where I need to come after you. What the hell happened yesterday, anyway?"
Chagrin crossed his face. "I went back to put the discs away. I heard movement in the security office and when I saw Peter out of the corner of my eye, I went to take him down. Someone charged me from behind, Ariel most likely, and I felt something being injected into my neck. I don't remember anything else before waking up here and watching you pull some Matrix-style moves."
A flush spread over her cheeks. "It's not like I'm the next Trinity or anything," she said lightly, "but I'm glad my training with Digg was time well spent."
Oliver frowned. "Remind me to kick his ass for giving you a gun of all things," he grumbled, and she poked him in the chest with a stern expression.
"You'll do no such thing. His forethought and preparation saved both of our lives tonight," she chided, and he made a face. Smiling, she planted another kiss on his lips. "Now let's secure these two morons and go call the authorities."
They made quick work of tying the two of them up, keeping them on separate sides of the room so they couldn't assist each other if they regained consciousness during Oliver and Felicity's absence. She breathed a sigh of relief when they were both trussed up like turkeys.
Taking his hand, she led him out of the room and back into the darkness of the hotel's sub-basement. "Watch your step," she warned, lifting her foot carefully and stepping over the intrusive pipe. She smothered a giggle when Oliver's leg slammed into the pipe and he cursed explosively. "Maybe you'll learn to listen to me now," she teased.
"I always listen to you," he retorted, then grudgingly admitted, "I just don't always listen to you as soon as I should."
She cautiously made her way along the wall until she came to the staircase. She could feel Oliver's eyes on her when she braced her shoulder against the "ceiling", lifting the section of sidewalk out of its place and sliding it along the grooves underneath the section next to it. They emerged from the gloom into the bright sunshine and both had to shield their eyes against the glare.
Once they'd acclimated to their environment, Oliver suggested he notify the authorities while Felicity went back to their room. She gripped his hand tightly and leaned her forehead against his. "There's not the slightest chance I will agree to that," she said firmly. "I'm not about to let you out of my sight again for a really freaking long time."
Oliver slid his arm around her waist and pulled her tightly against him. "The feeling is mutual," he said softly. "You know what that means, though, don't you?"
She looked up at him warily. "You're going to chain me in the Foundry?" she guessed with a smirk.
He raised an eyebrow. "Not a bad idea, but no. I think we need to make up for lost time. The mansion is so empty now that Mom is gone and Thea is living with Roy, so I'd like you to consider moving in with me when we get home."
Felicity gaped at him. "You Queens never do anything by halves, do you?" she asked faintly.
Oliver bestowed his most charming grin on her. "Neither do you, Mrs. Queen," he said affectionately. "Neither do you."
There will be more explanation regarding Ariel and Peter and the weapons ring in the conclusion. It just didn't seem to fit realistically into this one, and forcing it in was starting to feel awkward. Also, I'd be interested to know if anyone caught the hint I left here about what's going to happen in the last chapter. ;)
Chapter 16: Epilogue
So, here it is. Finally. The final chapter of The Retreat. This is actually an epilogue, not much in the way of plot, it's mostly just a wrap-up of the previous chapter. I offer a thousand apologies for taking so damn long to get this written and posted, but I don't want to make a bunch of lame excuses, so I'll just leave it at that. I really hope that this makes you all happy (I listened to those of you who were asking/begging for another sexytimes scene LOL), and if anyone is still out there reading this, I would love to hear what you think of the story as a whole, now that it's all done. Thank you so much for everything. All the reviews, the loyalty, the encouragement and the praise and the love. I may not love Olicity anymore, but I still love the Olicity fandom because y'all? Are amazing. <3
Felicity rolled over in bed, her nose colliding with something warm and firm. The distinctly male scent invaded her senses and she tingled, a slow smile spreading across her face. She allowed her eyes to drift open leisurely, drinking in the sight of Oliver, naked and golden and hard. All over.
She glanced up at him and her eyes brightened when they met his. His gaze devoured her hungrily. “Good morning,” she said lazily, trailing her fingertips over his abdomen. She walked them over his taut skin, letting her nails graze one nipple before drifting to the other side and brushing against the hardened peak. A wicked grin appeared on his full lips when he suddenly grabbed her hand, pulling it downward. She laughed, tugging it out of his grip and mapping the lower terrain of his body greedily, wanting to touch every bit of him she could.
A pained hiss escaped between his clenched teeth when her hand slid over his stomach, skirting around the hardening cock that pressed against it, and slipping between his thighs. Her small fingers cupped his testicles and squeezed gently, delighting in the way his fists tightened in the blankets. “Are you just going to tease me?” he growled, his voice rough with need.
“After the day we had yesterday, I feel like being playful,” Felicity teased. “So sue me.” Despite her words, she took pity on him and slid down his body, her breasts pressing enticingly against his stomach. She bit her lip and gazed up at him through lowered lashes when she moved down further, his cock sliding into her cleavage. She paused for a moment, rubbing her chest against him so he slid back and forth between her breasts, and he groaned helplessly.
“You’re killing me,” Oliver rasped, and she grinned.
“I’m just getting started,” she promised. Her lips slid over the head of his cock and she used the tip of her tongue to tease the weeping slit. He twitched in her mouth; she smiled around him. Her hand came up to wrap around the base of his shaft and she stroked, her pace relaxed at first but then picking up speed as she worked her mouth down over him. His hips came up off the bed and he tangled his fingers in her silky blonde hair, urging her on as he thrust helplessly between her lips.
“Fuck, Felicity, you have to stop,” he gasped. “I’m not going to last.”
She pulled back, pouting, and he grinned. He wrapped his long, strong fingers around her wrist and tugged, pulling her up so that she was straddling his waist, but he didn’t slip inside her. Instead, his hands caressed the length of her body. He ran his palms down her arms, cupping her elbows lightly before fitting them to the curve of her hips. They stroked up and down unhurriedly as he looked up into her face adoringly.
“I love you, Felicity,” he breathed. “From now until the end of time.”
Tears sparkled in her eyes. “I love you too, Oliver. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”
He gripped her hips tightly and flipped her, making her shriek with laughter. When he had her pinned underneath him, his knee nudging her core, the laughter faded away and the passion flamed. She stared up at him heatedly, arching her back in a silent plea. He moved his leg and covered her body with his, his cock pressed between her thighs. With a quiet groan, he slipped inside her and felt her warmth envelop him like a glove.
A breathy moan rumbled in her throat and she lifted her hips, trying to take him in deeper, to get closer to him. His fingers found their way to her thighs and slid underneath them, lifting and pulling gently until she was spread open underneath him. He rolled his hips, pressing deeper into her, filling her. Tears pooled at the corners of her eyes and spilled over, running down the sides of her face. “Hey,” he said, concerned. “This is a happy day. No tears, okay?”
Felicity sniffled. “I’m crying because I’m happy, you doof,” she choked out with a half-laugh. “I never imagined I’d be here like this, with you. Especially with everything that happened last year.”
Oliver pressed his knees into the mattress to support himself while he framed her face with his hands, his gaze fierce as he stared into her eyes. “I didn’t either, but now that we’re here, I can promise you that I will never let you go. You’ll never lose me, okay?” His tone was adamant and Felicity had no choice but to nod her understanding.
Wanting to shake off the serious mood, she moved underneath him, reminding him of what they’d been doing before he got distracted by her tears. Groaning, he entwined his fingers with hers, guiding them up the pillow so that her arms were above her head, their hands joined while he eased out of her and thrust back in. His face dropped to hers and she tilted her chin up, meeting his lips in a frantic, messy kiss. Their tongues crashed together and Oliver continued to drive into her, his fingers clenching tighter around hers as his hips pumped forward.
Felicity could feel the sensations curling through her lower body, working their way through her stomach and down to her core. The pressure grew and she began to gasp, the sounds feeling torn from her throat as she strained to get closer to the release that was just out of reach. “Oh God, Oliver,” she panted, wrapping her legs around his waist in an effort to pull him deeper into her. “I’m so close, oh God, please, please!”
He ducked his head again, smiling against her lips before capturing them in a fiery kiss. This one was less frantic and more sensual, his tongue delving into her mouth and curling around hers. The intensity of the kiss escalated as her orgasm bloomed, and she broke away from him in order to inhale shuddery breaths. Oliver could feel how close she was and he reached down, sliding his fingers over her slippery wet clit, rubbing the little button with just the right amount of pressure.
A shriek of ecstasy burst from her lips and her body trembled underneath his, clenching and releasing around his aching cock. He grit his teeth, sweat beading at his hairline as he continued to thrust deeply, his speed increasing with every stroke. When Felicity suddenly arched up and cried out for a second time, the orgasm rippling through her and causing her to squeeze tightly, he felt his own orgasm tear through him. He jerked, erupting inside her with a hoarse shout, and shuddered through the completion of the aftershocks.
He rested inside her for a few moments, his forehead pressed to hers as he breathed in and out harshly. She lifted her head, her mouth finding his and scattering a series of light, quick kisses over his lips and jaw as they both regained their breath and came back down to earth. After a few moments, Oliver released his grip on her fingers and eased back, his softening cock slipping from her body. Rolling onto his side, he reached for her and she snuggled against his chest while he wrapped his arms around her.
“I love you,” he mumbled drowsily.
She smiled. “I know.” They lay there in comfortable silence for a minute or two before she reluctantly pulled away from him and sat up. “We have to head downstairs. Everyone is going to be waiting to see us.”
“You’d think they’d know better,” he muttered grumpily. “After yesterday, they shouldn’t expect to see our faces all day today.”
“Don’t be a baby,” she teased. “Come on, I’ll let you soap me off in the shower.” Her eyes held a gleam of promise and Oliver could feel himself begin to harden once more.
“You’re going to be the death of me,” he complained good-naturedly as he followed her into the bathroom. When she stepped into the shower and turned the water on, letting it run down her body until she was dripping wet and gleaming, he decided with a very self-satisfied smirk that there couldn’t be a better way to go.
Forty-five minutes later, they finally extricated themselves from the shower and quickly dried off and dressed. Felicity threw her hair into a sleek chignon, her hair still wet and a dark blonde color. Despite the demure look and the fact that they’d taken each other twice in the last hour, Oliver was tempted to toss her back down on the bed and say to hell with everyone downstairs. One warning look from her had him controlling his urges, albeit with a muttered complaint, and the two descended the stairs hand in hand.
They made their way to the dining room and were pleased by the warm greeting they got.
“Hey! Here are the newlyweds, finally!” Oliver smiled as Lyla got up from her place at the table and crossed over to them, giving Oliver and then Felicity huge hugs. “Not that I blame you, but you guys ran away so fast last night after the reception. Are you at least going to have breakfast with the rest of us?”
“Yeah, man. We didn’t fly all the hell way out to Barbados for your wedding, just to sit around and never see you,” Roy teased him around a mouthful of pancake.
“It’s our wedding and our honeymoon,” Oliver reminded the younger man mildly. “I can’t believe you expected to see us at all.” He and Felicity took seats at the table, across from Digg and Lyla. Thea and Roy sat on Lyla’s other side, with the baby bouncing in Thea’s lap.
“I can’t believe you actually got married,” Thea chimed in, smirking. “My playboy big brother seemed destined to be a bachelor for life.”
“That’s because you hadn’t seen them day in and day out for the last couple years before the retreat,” Digg said with a chuckle, punctuating his statement with a bite of bacon. “These two were like a bomb just waiting to go off, and that retreat was exactly what they needed to light the fuse.”
“Not that I’m not grateful you guys found each other or anything, but maybe now that you’re married, you’ll tone it down with the nauseatingly sweet crap?” Thea remarked dryly, and Roy snorted.
“Good luck with that,” he said bluntly. “You think it was bad having to see them on the odd occasion you were actually all home at the same time? Try dealing with it every night at work.”
“All right, all right,” Felicity interrupted good-naturedly, taking the light-hearted teasing in stride. “I’m just glad we’re all here, together, celebrating the fact that Oliver and I made it out of here alive and together.”
“Yeah, about that,” Roy interrupted. He glanced around, his eyebrows drawing together. “Why in the world would you come back to this place after you both almost died here?”
Thea and Lyla rolled their eyes while Digg just shook his head in amusement. Roy’s gaze bounced to each of them in turn. “What?” he asked, mystified.
Lyla smiled kindly at him. “There’s no place as special as the one where you finally figure out you’re with the person you want to be with for the rest of your life,” she explained. She glanced over at Diggle affectionately. “For me and Johnny, that place will always be Afghanistan.”
“Except we didn’t last,” he pointed out.
She shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. That was where I knew. It just took us awhile to figure out how to make it work.” They shared a private smile.
“So why were you here?” Thea questioned Oliver and Felicity, diverting everyone’s attention from the pair as she handed the baby a sippy cup of juice. “You never really did tell me what happened.”
“Us either, for that matter,” Digg reminded them, referring to Roy, Lyla, and himself. “All you ended up telling us was that Ariel and Peter were the couriers and you caught them and shut down the operation.”
Oliver nodded to Felicity, deferring to her for explanation. “Oliver had an informant who told him about a bio-weapon operation that had moved into Starling City. They had a contact in Barbados and every time there was a retreat at the Tipton, a pair of male and female couriers were sent to pose as husband and wife, accept the shipment, and take it back home. We came out to learn the couriers’ identity, intercept them, and shut down the operation.”
“How did you figure it out?” Thea asked. “I know missions are like you guys’ thing, but still, that’s not much information to go on.” At Felicity’s urging, Oliver had reluctantly disclosed his identity as the Arrow to Thea three months after they returned home from Barbados. Once he’d proposed, she’d been incredibly uncomfortable keeping secrets from her future sister-in-law. Thea had taken the news surprisingly well, though she hadn’t integrated herself into the team the way Oliver feared she would want to. She was just happy to be running Verdant again and relieved to know what was going on beneath her feet every night.
“Fortunately, there were only five other couples. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to eliminate two of them early on,” Oliver answered. “So that left us with three couples to focus on.”
“If it had been one pair of couriers pretending to be married, it wouldn’t have been half so hard to figure it out,” Felicity added. “What we didn’t realize at the time was that the couriers actually came with their spouses to throw suspicion off. I never would have suspected Ariel because her real husband, Donovan Blackstock, is one of QC’s investors. Oliver and I knew him well before we ever arrived here, and that messed with our ability to recognize Ariel Blackstock as the mastermind.”
“Mastermind?” Roy asked with a frown. “I thought she was just a courier.”
“The bio weapons were Ariel’s idea,” Oliver explained. “She was the head of the ring. Peter Moreau was one of her executives, and he brought his wife Nadia so they appeared to be just a normal couple. They may have known that their activities were being reported because they were actually here to get the last delivery and shut the Barbados operation down. I suspect that’s why their contact, Raymond Elezar, disappeared; he was afraid of being shut down along with the operation.”
“Raymond was brought in by Ariel when she came up with the idea for the operation,” Felicity continued, picking up the thread of Oliver’s story. “They were friends from MIT, back when Ariel was a mousy brunette named Kody Carron, and she knew Raymond had the skills she needed. He was already here in Bridgetown, so he lied and conned his way into a job at the Tipton in order to facilitate the delivery of the weapons.”
“When did you make the connection?” Thea interjected. “That it wasn’t a couple, I mean?”
“Honestly, I didn’t,” Felicity admitted. “At one point Oliver and I thought all of the couples were legitimate, that Raymond’s old schoolmate Kody had a partner and they were the couriers. I was watching security footage and realized Raymond kept disappearing below the hotel. I figured he was meeting Kody down there. It wasn’t until I clicked to the fact that Ariel was also disappearing, at roughly the same times, that I recognized her. She and Raymond were seniors at MIT the year I was a freshman, and I saw her at a couple rallies that Cooper and I went to. My boyfriend at the time,” she clarified at Thea’s confused look.
“So that explains how you discovered them,” Thea mused. “How did you capture them?”
Oliver and Felicity exchanged an amused glance. “Digg’s interference, a gun, and Felicity kicking ass and taking names,” he answered, smirking a little. “I learned not to underestimate her after that little adventure.”
“You should have already known better than to underestimate me,” Felicity pointed out impishly. She took the last bite of her eggs, chewing and swallowing blissfully. “You need to hire their chef. No one makes eggs this good back in Starling.”
“Consider it done. Anything for my beautiful wife,” Oliver replied smoothly, and she lifted an eyebrow.
“Anything…?” Her tone was smoky, and he pushed back from the table.
“We’ll see you at dinner later,” he said abruptly. Everyone else at the table exchanged knowing looks.
Digg snorted. “If you notice when the sun starts to set, I’ll be shocked,” he teased. “Do you need a reminder call?”
Felicity grinned, her eyes gleaming. “If you don’t see us, don’t come looking.” Without another word, she and Oliver escaped to their suite, which had a private entrance to the infinity pool and an upper level with a balcony off the bedroom. They’d reserved the entire hotel for the next three days and planned to enjoy the fact that there were no other guests to interrupt them.
They stood on the balcony, basking in the sunshine. Oliver stretched his hand out to her and she grabbed it, their fingers lacing together and causing the sunlight to refract off the large diamond. She marveled again at the beautiful ring gracing her left hand, knowing that this time it was for real and wouldn’t be removed at the end of the week.
“I can’t believe you didn’t want your own ring,” Oliver remarked, rubbing his thumb across the skin below the band. “I would have bought you any ring you wanted.”
“I wanted this one,” she said simply. “Even for what we thought was a charade, you put thought into the one you gave me because it mattered to you how I felt about it. It’s a symbol of more than just our love for each other.”
He tugged on her hand, pulling her into his arms. She came to him like a homing pigeon to roost, curling her head against his chest as his hands dropped to her waist and pulled her in tighter. “I don’t need a symbol, Felicity,” he murmured, his lips caressing her hair. “There is no one for you but me. There never was before you, and there never will be after you.”
She felt heat spiral through her at his tender, romantic words. “I can’t imagine ever loving anyone else,” she returned, lifting her head and looping her arms around his neck. His eyes darkened when she pressed her lower body to his, and he slid his hands under her ass and lifted her. Her legs wrapped around his waist and he arched into her.
“I think it’s time to take this conversation back to bed, don’t you?” he murmured.
Felicity shook her head and he looked at her in confusion. “There’s no need,” she whispered, her heart full as she looked up into his eyes. “We don’t need words anymore. All we need, all we’ve ever needed, is us. Just us.”
As he carried her to their bed, Oliver realized that she had, once again, gotten right to the heart of the matter. He worshiped her with his eyes as he laid her down, marveling over the beauty lying beneath him, and let his body speak to hers. No words were necessary.